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Coyotes Start Season's Final Week with Upbeat Practice on Monday

Monday, 04.04.2011 / 7:56 PM / Features
By Anthony Perez
GLENDALE - After taking two days off, the Coyotes returned to the ice at Jobing.com Arena on Monday for a lengthy, upbeat practice in preparation for their final three games of the regular season this week.

Tippett
The first test for the Coyotes will be on Wednesday night in Los Angeles when Phoenix faces the Kings for the sixth and final time in the regular season. The Coyotes and Kings both have 96 points in the tight Western Conference standings; Wednesday’s game could be a first-round playoff preview.

“I expect a game that’s playoff intensity,” Head Coach Dave Tippett said. “Both teams need points to secure playoff spots… I expect a very competitive game, a very tight game, and when we go in there we’ll have to play a strong game to find a way to win.”

NOTE: The Coyotes and Kings could secure berths in the playoffs before Wednesday’s game, if Columbus beats Dallas on Tuesday night.

Injured forwards Lauri Korpikoski and Taylor Pyatt practiced on Monday and both are expected to play Wednesday in LA. Korpikoski ranks tied for second on the team with 18 goals and Pyatt ranks fifth with 17. Defenseman Ed Jovanovski also practiced with teammates on Monday is expected to be in the lineup on Wednesday for the first time since Feb. 17 when he suffered orbital bone fractures vs. Atlanta.

“The only guy that wasn’t quite full-steam today was Pyatt, but he’s close,” Tippett said. “I think tomorrow he’ll be up and going, and Jovanovski and Korpikoski went through fine today.”

Lauri Korpikoski. Photo by Getty Images.
Korpikoski said he was fortunate the Coyotes have had a relaxed schedule lately.

“If you’re going to say there’s a good time to be injured for a few days, this would be the best (time),” Korpikoski said. “…I missed three games. That’s not too bad, and I get right back at it hopefully on Wednesday."

Jovanovski, too, is ready to get back in the lineup.

“I feel good,” Jovanovski said. “It’s been a long time away … I’m anxious to get back for sure.”

Monday’s practice was the first for rookie free agent Andy Miele. The Coyotes signed the Hobey Baker finalist on Saturday just days after he capped a 71-point, 39-game season for Miami University.

After practice, Miele talked about what it was like to skate in his first NHL practice.

Miele
“I was a little bit nervous going on the ice, but I settled down,” Miele said. “I’ve played hockey my whole life. It’s what I do, so once I got a little comfortable out there it was a little bit better.”

• Click here to watch an exclusive interview with Miele after Monday's practice.

Miele will practice with the Coyotes again Tuesday and accompany the team to LA.

“I don’t expect him to be in one of these (final) three games, but we’ll get a good look at him, he’ll get a good look at us, and hopefully he’s a good player for the future for us,” Tippett said.

The Hobey Baker Award will be given out Friday night in St. Paul, Minn. as part of the Frozen Four.
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