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Coyotes Staging Final Auditions This Week

Monday, 09.26.2011 / 6:31 PM / Features
By Dave Vest
GLENDALE – The Coyotes are reaching a critical point in training camp with only three preseason games left on the schedule and several roster spots still up for grabs.

The team left the Valley for exhibition games at Edmonton (Tuesday) and Calgary (Thursday) on Monday afternoon after nearly two hours of practice at Jobing.com Arena.

The flight to Alberta was a crowded one; all 31 players still in camp were on board.

Kyle Chipchura fights for the puck vs. LA. Photo by Getty Images.
“It’s no secret that there are a lot of guys around here and not a lot of jobs,” forward Kyle Chipchura said before departing. “I think we all have to keep focused, keep working hard and keep doing what we do well.”

► Click here to listen to an interview with Chipchura.

Chipchura is one of several forwards vying for one of the two (or possibly three) roster spots still up for grabs. The 25-year-old, who has played 163 NHL games for Montreal and Anaheim, has stood out in the exhibition games and was arguably the team’s best player (aside from goalie Jason LaBarbera) in Saturday’s 1-0 preseason loss at San Jose.

“He’s been doing all the little things it takes to make a team,” Coyotes General Manager Don Maloney said. “He’s strong on the face-offs, he’s been aggressive, he’s been hard on the puck and is moving the puck well. He’s doing well so far.”

Other forwards still competing for jobs include Patrick O’Sullivan, Marc-Antoine Pouliot, Viktor Tikhonov, Brett MacLean and Andy Miele.

These are important games for me as I try to improve here and be consistent, and earn a spot in this lineup." - Patrick O'Sullivan
Like Chipchura, O’Sullivan knows what it takes to play in the NHL and he is drawing on that experience in this camp. O’Sullivan, 26, who has played 311 NHL games for four teams, said he’s excited to be going to Edmonton for the next preseason game because he enjoyed playing there with the Oilers from 2008-10 and because it will be his first game there since Edmonton traded him in June of 2010. In other words, it will be a comfortable setting for him as he looks to impress the decision makers.

“I need to play my own game and that’s what I plan on doing,” O’Sullivan said. “…This league is all about mistakes. A little mistake will often end up in your own net because everyone is so good, so I need to show I can do the little things a player needs to be successful in this league.”

Miele, aka the 2011 Hobey Baker Award winner who is trying to make the jump from the NCAA to the NHL, will be watched very closely this week and he knows it.

“Camp has been going good,” Miele said. “I’ve been working my hardest and making plays here and there. I still think I can get better once I get more adjusted, but it’s been a great time for me. The guys have been great to me and I’m ready for this road trip.”

Andy Miele. Photo by Getty Images.
He added: “I know I have to start producing more offensively and accomplishing more on the ice. I’m not completely comfortable yet. The difference (between the NHL and NCAA) is unbelievable, especially defensively. The players are so much smarter.”

Ten defensemen still are in camp competing for seven (or possibly eight) jobs. Nathan Oystrick, Maxim Goncharov and Chris Summers are “on the bubble” and likely will get long looks in this week’s games.

Head Coach Dave Tippett on Monday said the team would likely make its next round of roster moves on Friday before the preseason finale vs. San Jose on Saturday night at Jobing.com Arena. Click here to watch Tippett address the media after Monday's practice.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Tuesday's preseason game between the Coyotes and Edmonton Oilers at Rexall Place will be streamed live (video) at phoenixcoyotes.com at 6 p.m. (AZ time).
 
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