COYOTES YOUTH READY FOR SUCCESS
By: Chad Lynch
During the Phoenix Coyotes 2005-06 preseason, the Coyotes line-up has showcased several highly touted young players, some of which are still competing to be a member of the Coyotes opening night roster.
Throughout training camp, defensemen Keith Ballard and Matt Jones have emerged as strong candidates for the Phoenix defensive unit.
"Our entire organization has been tremendously thrilled with the upside of the young players we have on this team," said Coyotes head coach Wayne Gretzky. "We have a lot of kids that we think are going to be here for a long time. Ballard and Jones have shown a desire to play well and they are honestly pushing to earn a spot on this team right now, not a year or two down the line."
On the other end of the ice, forward Fredrik Sjostrom has built on his 57-game experience from 2003-04, as he has registered two points (1 goal, 1 assist) in his last two games and has become a serious consideration for a final roster spot.
"I have been very pleased with Sjostrom so far," said Gretzky. "He has played smart and has produced offensively and is making a strong case for himself."
The Coyotes are also seeing improved play form veterans as well. Forward Mike Rupp recorded two goals in his first three exhibition games and newcomer Oleg Saprykin scored twice in last Sunday's contest in Los Angeles.
"I think a lot of the guys are starting to play well because we are getting a feel for each other on the ice, "said Saprykin. "For myself, I am getting more comfortable out there and I am starting to get more comfortable within our system."
HOME SWEET HOME
On Wednesday, the Coyotes will return to the ice at Glendale Arena as they host Pacific Division rivals, the San Jose Sharks in the first game of a home-and home series.
After a two game road trip that took the club to Southern California, the Coyotes were eager to get back in their home building.
"We are very excited to be back on home ice," said Saprykin. "We really want to come back here, into our home building and play well for our fans."
Over the past week, residents of Phoenix may have seen a series of elaborately painted over-sized guitars placed around the city. The promotion is part of "Guitarmania," in which a series of the large instruments are given one-of-a-kind designs and promoted throughout the city before being auctioned off for charities in February.
One guitar, which features several hand-painted images of Coyotes Head Coach Wayne Gretzky, is currently on display at Sky harbor International Airport in Phoenix. All proceeds from the "Gretzky Guitar" will go to the Boys and Girls Club of Central Arizona.
Another guitar featuring the Phoenix Coyotes logo was recently on display in front of Bank One Ballpark in downtown Phoenix. The "Coyotes Guitar" is now on display at Desert Ridge and will move to its permanent home, in front of Glendale Arena, in February.