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TELL-US-STRADER: OVERCOMING INJURIES POSES CHALLENGE

Tuesday, 11.10.2009 / 11:19 AM / Tell-Us-Strader: a Blog by Dave Strader
By Dave Strader
I know that many hockey interviews are full of clichés. In fairness to the players and coaches who use these clichés when answering questions, they are often answering the same questions over and over again. It’s tough to come up with different ways of saying the same thing. But a “cliché” word that is used often by players and coaches does apply to the Coyotes this season: adversity. You hear coaches and players talk about “facing adversity” or “playing through adversity.” The Coyotes have had to deal with the entire ownership issue as a form of adversity and they have handled that very well. But now, the Coyotes must deal with a more conventional type of adversity: the loss of a key player or players due to injury.

Every team goes through this situation at some point during the long grind of an NHL season. Look at the Detroit Red Wings. It’s tough to feel sorry for an organization that has so much depth of talent and has had so much success, but they are not the same team with Johan Franzen and Valtteri Filppula out of the lineup. The Blackhawks have played since the start of the season without their biggest off-season acquisition, Marian Hossa. The Capitals have had to deal with an injury to Alex Ovechkin…the Thrashers have lost Ilya Kovalchuk…and the struggling Carolina Hurricanes are without their franchise player Eric Staal. The list goes on and on.

The Coyotes had a terrific month of October. They tied a franchise record with nine victories and it was a total team effort. For the most part, the Coyotes avoided the injury bug for the entire month.
Jovanovski
Defenseman Kurt Sauer has not played since the opening game in Los Angeles and Taylor Pyatt missed the first half dozen games. But now comes a tougher test for this team. Ed Jovanovski is listed as day-to-day after sustaining a lower-body injury vs. Chicago last week. Zbynek Michalek is listed as week-to-week after sustaining a lower-body injury vs. Colorado last week. “Z” is one of those players who does so many of the little things during the course of every game. His shot blocking is well documented as he led the entire NHL in that department last season. But he is more than just a shot blocker. He is half of the Coyotes top defensive pairing along with Jovanovski. He and Jovo often go up against the other teams’ top line. Michalek is so reliable in his own end that he enables Jovo to be more aggressive offensively. The absences of
Michalek
Jovo and “Z” will be tough but as any coach will tell you, it’s an opportunity for others to step up (another cliché line?). In the first game without Michalek, Sami Lepisto filled in admirably next to Jovo. Lepisto, who has been perhaps the biggest surprise out of training camp, will not only see his minutes go up but he’ll be playing more important minutes. The roster spot left open with Michalek’s injury was taken by David Schlemko, who was slotted in Lepisto’s old spot next to Keith Yandle. Schlemko, in just his fourth NHL game, picked up an assist and did not look out of place at all during a 3-1 win over the Blackhawks. Rookie Shaun Heska is filling in for Jovo.

I’m writing this aboard a flight from Phoenix to Detroit on my way to Rochester, N.Y. My son Trevor, a classical voice major at the Eastman School of Music, has the lead role in their production of The Secret Garden. The only good thing about a 50-game TV package is that it leaves a few holes in the schedule that allows me to make trips like this! FYI, we are back on the air on Fox Sports Arizona for Thursday’s tilt against the Montreal Canadiens at Jobing.com Arena.
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