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COYOTES HIT ROAD FOR FOUR GAMES

Monday, 01.12.2009 / 3:32 PM / Features
By Russell Brooks
The Coyotes embarked on a four-game trip through Minnesota and western Canada on Monday that will see the team play four games in six days.

According to Coyotes Head Coach Wayne Gretzky, the key to a successful trip is winning the first game.

“It’s a big game tomorrow night,” Gretzky said of Tuesday's matchup with Minnesota at the Xcel Energy Center. “This is four tough buildings to go to and four good teams we are going to face. We haven’t had a whole lot of success in Minnesota. Fortunately, we beat them last time and maybe that will give us some confidence.”

Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov will get the start for the Coyotes after shutting out the Dallas Stars on Saturday night.

CHANGES TO THE DEFENSE

With the lower body injury to defenseman Kurt Sauer, the Coyotes will shift the defensive pairings. Working on the shutdown pairing with Zbynek Michalek will be defenseman David Hale, who is looking forward to the opportunity.

“You can’t replace a guy that logs that many minutes,” Hale said of Sauer. “I have to work hard and concentrate on the defensive side of my game and try to get better every day. I think (Michlaek) can make the game a whole lot easier for you. It’s going to take a bit of an adjustment, a little time period. Everybody has to step up now.”

Gretzky agreed.

“Sauer has been so strong and solid in a defensive sort of role,” Gretzky said. “It is going to be hard to replace those minutes. It’s another guy's opportunity to step up. (Keith) Yandle is back in and those guys have an opportunity to play on a regular basis and play well. We need their contributions.”

The other pairings will have Ed Jovanovski with Ken Klee, and Derek Morris with Yandle.

WINNIK RETURNS

Forward Daniel Winnik returned to the Coyotes on Monday after a conditioning stint with the San Antonio Rampage, their top affiliate.

Winnik will be matched on the checking line with Martin Hanzal and Daniel Carcillo.

“I know my role on the team,” Winnik said. “I have to be a high-energy guy. I have to finish my hits and I think I kind of got away from that for a while.”

Winnik hasn’t played a game for the Coyotes since December but he feels ready to go.

“It’s tough not playing for a while and jumping in a game,” Winnik said. “As much as you skate, you can’t simulate what you do on the ice in a game. I think going down there and skating and hitting really got me ready.”

QUICK HIT

Rookie Viktor Tikhonov skated with the team on Monday for the first time since suffering an upper body injury in Thursday night’s victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning. He still remains week-to-week.

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