Coyotes hoping to bond, get healthy on circuitous trip

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — With the Coyotes set to embark on a four-game road trip to the Eastern time zone, coach Dave Tippett was asked how he would spend the long flight.
“I’m planning on watching a horror film,” Tippett said. 
He was talking about tape of the team’s 4-1 loss in San Jose on Saturday — a loss that he has already watched on replay at least once.
“It didn’t get any better the second time,” Tippett quipped.
The Coyotes’ follow-up to an impressive season-opening win over the Rangers was chock-full of mistakes, beginning with the Sharks’ first goal, which was the product of a turnover and a poor line change.
“That’s one of the things we wanted to focus on this year: How do you go in and win in hard circumstances?” Tippett said. “Our first test wasn’t very good.”
Regardless, the team still sees the potential for positives on this trip. Following a whirlwind offseason, a number of personnel changes and a home opener filled with pageantry, the Coyotes will get a chance to escape all the distractions and simply focus on hockey.
“Any time you get on the road, you’re forced to be with each other, and it’s a good thing, especially early in the year,” defenseman Keith Yandle said. “Any time you can get away from all the distractions and just play hockey, it’s a lot of fun.”
Barring any additional injuries, the Coyotes could also return to full strength on this trip. Defenseman Rusty Klesla (concussion) was cleared for contact recently and could play as soon as Thursday in Detroit, while suspended forward Paul Bissonnette is eligible to return the same day.
Despite the missed time, Tippett said he isn’t concerned with either player’s conditioning after assistant coach Dave King skated both players hard over the weekend.
When Klesla returns, the Coyotes must make a roster move to get back to the 23-man limit unless they place another injured player on injured reserve.
With nine defensemen on the roster, the team would have to send one back to Portland of the AHL — or perhaps make that long-anticipated trade for a second-line left wing. Chris Summers is the player most likely to be demoted, but he would have to clear waivers first.
Defensemen Derek Morris and Oliver Ekman-Larsson both missed Monday’s abbreviated practice before the team’s flight with what Tippett called upper-body injuries.
Tippett is hopeful both will be able to play when the team opens the trip Tuesday against the Islanders at Nassau Coliseum.
The Islanders will move to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn for the start of the 2015-16 season. Their lease at Nassau Coliseum expires after the 2014-15 season. The Islanders won four Stanley Cups there.
Klesla addressed the media on Monday for the first time since suffering a concussion and whiplash on a hit by Kings forward Jordan Nolan in the preseason that the league deemed a clean hit after review.
“I don’t feel anything in the head, so it’s just a matter of getting another practice and seeing what the options are,” said Klesla, who was cleared for contact recently.
“It’s a play that happens in hockey. It was right on the chin, so that’s what happens when you get hit in the right spot. I’m just thankful that nothing worse happened. My neck held up pretty good. I was able to have a quick recovery and be back playing soon.”
Part of the reasoning for the lack of supplement discipline, according to the NHL Department of Player Safety, was that Nolan did not pick or target the head. Klesla has a different interpretation of the event, noting that his chin was indeed the first point of contact.
“If it wasn’t, I’m not knocked out,” he said. “If it’s a good hit, I don’t think I’m in the hospital.”
Klesla said this was his first concussion from playing hockey, although he has taken some high hits. 
“Hockey’s a hard sport,” he said, following it up with what sounded like a warning to Nolan. “I don’t want to say — you have to expect it, but you have to be careful and know that he can throw a hit, but he can always get a hit, too. I’ll just leave it at that.”
Bissonnette is eligible to return in Detroit during the second game of the team’s road trip. Originally, he was suspended 10 games for leaving the ice on what was deemed an illegal line change during an altercation following Nolan’s hit on Klesla, but the league later reduced the length of the suspension due to conflicting evidence.
“Great work by the NHLPA to help me out, and I thanked the league on Twitter for reviewing the case and taking the time to look into it,” he said. “With 10 games, there’s no real light at the end of the tunnel, missing pretty much a whole month of the season. I’m excited to get back in and do what I do.”
Bissonnette is entering the final year of a contract that will pay him $737,500 this season. The prospect of losing games and salary only added to his sense of uncertainty.
“You think about it a bit, but just as stability is concerned,” he said. “It’s kind of like the situation we’ve had here for four years: You’re not really sure where you’re going to end up next year.”
Bissonnette has no idea how things will play out with his contract this time around.
“The last two times, I’ve signed during the season, so I’ve never really been a free agent,” he said. “I really like it here, I like the guys and I like what the team is about. I’d love to stay here, but it’s up to them.”
Tippett was asked for his assessment of the point-less top line of Mike Ribeiro, Shane Doan and Mikkel Boedker thus far.
“Very average,” he said.
Message sent.
The last time the Coyotes and Islanders met on Jan. 7, 2012 at Arena, captain Shane Doan notched his first career hat trick. Here’s a link to the story from that memorable night with the always quotable Ray Whitney weighing in on the historic feat.