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Coyotes Hit Road for Games at Chicago, Winnipeg

Monday, 11.28.2011 / 3:40 PM / Features
By Dave Vest
GLENDALE – The Coyotes, who have thrived on the road this season, will play five of their next six games away from home.

The first two will be played in extremely challenging environments – at Chicago and at Winnipeg.

The Coyotes are 6-3-1 away from Jobing.com Arena and have earned 13 of a possible 20 road points. The secret to their success is their approach – playing sound defense and keeping things simple on offense. As a result, the Coyotes have scored 32 goals on the road and have allowed just 25 in 10 games and only 19 in the last nine. Only four other NHL teams have allowed fewer goals on the road this season.

Photo by Getty Images.
“Chicago is one of the top teams in the League right now so that will be a huge challenge for us, so we’ll have to elevate our game,” defenseman Adrian Aucoin said. “We’ve played some pretty good games lately and a couple stinkers so we’ve got to really bear down for that one. Then we’re going to Winnipeg and I think the atmosphere there is going to be a little bit hectic, but it’s another game where we’ve just got to focus on ourselves and do what we do.”

The Coyotes departed for Chicago after Monday morning’s practice at the Ice Den in Scottsdale. They will play the Blackhawks at the United Center on Tuesday night, presumably in front of a loud and rambunctious crowd of 20,000 or more. The Blackhawks are a tough team to beat in that setting; they’ve lost only once in regulation in their first 10 home games.

After the Chicago game, the Coyotes will fly to Winnipeg to play the Jets for the second time this season. Phoenix beat Winnipeg, 4-1, in its home opener on Oct. 15, but this game will be much more challenging for the Coyotes considering it will be played at the MTS Centre. While the building holds only 15,000 and change, odds are it will be the most hostile environment in which the Coyotes play a regular-season game this season.

The Coyotes, of course, used to be the Winnipeg Jets before moving to Arizona in 1996. The new Jets used to be the Atlanta Thrashers before moving to Manitoba last summer. As a result, the dynamic between the two franchises – and their fans – is unique, to say the least, and the Coyotes will likely have to deal with a highly-intense, circus-like environment during their stay in town and during the game.

The MTS Centre in Winnipeg will be rocking on Thursday. Photo by Getty Images.
“There will be lots of talk in the media about the old team coming back, but it is what it is and I look for our group to handle it just the way we handled it here the first home game of the year,” Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said.

Captain Shane Doan is the only member of the Coyotes who played for the franchise before it moved from Winnipeg to Phoenix. Doan played his rookie season for the Jets in 1995-96 and he scored his first NHL goal there on Nov. 14, 1995 vs. Chicago.

Thursday’s game will be Doan’s first regular-season game in Winnipeg since the 1995-96 season, and he is looking forward to it.

“It’ll be fun and it will be exciting,” Doan said. “Their fans have gotten behind them and are totally into it, and their emotion and enthusiasm for having their team back is unique. For me personally, it’ll be fun to go back and play in that city because that’s the city that drafted me and there’s a connection there.”

• Defenseman Michal Rozsival again practiced with teammates on Monday and accompanied the team on this two-game trip. Tippett said Rozsival is coming on the trip just to keep practicing with the team and that he's “at least a week away” from playing in a game. Rozsival suffered an upper-body injury in the first period of the season opener at San Jose and hasn’t played since.

• Center Kyle Turris also accompanied the team to Chicago on Monday.

"He’s skating hard and working hard, but he needs a few more practices (before playing in a game),” Tippett said.
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