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DEFENSEMEN VYING FOR JOBS

Sunday, 09.21.2008 / 8:03 PM / Features
By Russell Brooks
Let’s recap. The Coyotes gave up defensemen Keith Ballard and Nick Boynton in the off-season when they traded with Florida for All-Star center Olli Jokinen. The pair, however, was quickly replaced when the club signed free agents Kurt Sauer and David Hale.

Creating chemistry with the two newcomers is a priority this preseason.

“We have to develop that chemistry,” defenseman Ed Jovanovski said Sunday after the team’s second day of on-ice workouts. “…It will take time through the exhibition games to see what fits, but overall I think we have assembled a pretty good group.”

With Jovanovski, Sauer, Derek Morris and Zbynek Michalek in place on the depth chart, several players are attempting to win the two remaining spots. That group is led by Hale, Keith Yandle, Matt Jones and rookie Jonas Ahnelov.

“They have all had a good camp so we will see how games shake out,” Head Coach Wayne Gretzky said. “Hale is a pretty experienced guy and he has had a really strong camp. We know what Yandle and Jones can do and Ahnelov is a diamond in the rough, but he brings a physical presence to our team that maybe we need. All these guys are going to get a good look.”

That look will continue Monday night in Los Angeles as all four defensemen vying for the final spots will play against the Kings at Staples Center in the first of eight preseason games.

ROSTER IN L.A.

The following players will be traveling to Los Angeles for the preseason opener against the Kings:

Forwards: Todd Fedoruk, Brett MacLean, Alex Bourret, Adam Keefe, Kyle Turris, Steven Reinprecht, Kevin Porter, Garth Murray, Mikkel Boedker, Peter Mueller, Chad Kolarik and Viktor Tikhonov.

Defensemen: Ahnelov, Jones, Yandle, Hale, Michalek and Nick Ross.

Goaltenders: Al Montoya and Josh Tordjman.

A LOT TO DO IN A LITTLE TIME

So what does Gretzky expect from the players on Monday night with only two full practices under their belts?

“You can’t get a lot done in two days, but you can make baby steps,” Gretzky said. “What we try to do is simplify where we want people to be in our own zone, how we want to forecheck and how we want to play in the neutral zone so everyone is on the same page. We have had meetings about that for the last couple days just so everyone can get familiar with each other, and as we go along here, we will just keep working on different things.”

MEDIA BUZZ

Turris and Mueller will be in-studio guests on Channel 12’s “Sports Tonight” on Sunday at 10:35 p.m. Meanwhile, Chief Executive Officer Jeff Shumway will be an in-studio guest on Channel 15’s “Sports Sunday” at 10:35 p.m.
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