Is Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle suffering from a lack of confidence after he was left off the U.S. Olympic team’s roster with reported insight from the selection committee that he was viewed as a high-risk, high-reward player?
Coach Dave Tippett doesn’t think so.
"If anything, I think he’s trying to do too much," Tippett said. "The two months leading up to the Olympic announcement is probably the best I’ve ever seen him play since he got here. He was moving the puck and producing things offensively but he was still blocking shots and limiting turnovers.
"The last three or four games haven’t been what he wants, but I thought he was a lot better (Tuesday in St. Louis)."
Yandle is a minus-10 in his last four games (minus-13 this season), but not all of that is directly attributable to Yandle. For example, goalie Mike Smith made a pair of bad decisions with the puck that led directly to goals in a 5-1 loss at Winnipeg with Yandle on the ice. And that goes back to something Tippett has been repeating the last few days about accountability.
"When things aren’t going well there are people who have a bigger percentage chance of dragging you out it — those top guys who get top minutes," Tippett said. "Keith Yandle has to play better. Shane Doan has to play better and Mike Smith has to play better, too."
There is no denying that Yandle was victimized by careless turnovers and poor defensive play duirng the Coyotes’ current four-game losing streak. But nobody is more aware of that than Yandle, who voiced those concerns recently.
"I’ve been terrible, so I take a lot of the blame for that. It’s kind of put on me not helping my team win," Yandle said after the team’s 5-3 loss to Anaheim on Jan. 14 in Glendale. "I’ve got to get back to doing things right and help my team win games."
Center Jeff Halpern took a night off in St. Louis on the back end of back-to-game games, but Tippett said that is not a sign of things to come.
The Coyotes still value Halpern’s contributions on the penalty-killing unit and in the faceoff circle. Although he said it wasn’t about Halpern’s age, Tippett wanted to give Halpern a night off and juggle lines.
Kyle Chipchura centered the fourth line in St. Louis, but Chipchura will likely return to the wing. The Coyotes tried Chipchura at fourth-line center earlier this season before signing Halpern, who Tippett credits with "stabilizing the fourth line."
TURNAROUND IN SIGHT
The Coyotes didn’t get the win in St. Louis, but their effort in a 2-1 loss to what is arguably the NHL’s best team was cause for optimism.
"When you’re in a slump or not playing well, you’ve got to earn your way out of it," Tippett said. "We didn’t get points and that is ultimately how you are judged, but as the game went on last night I was encouraged by our play. I thought that was our best effort in a long time."
CHARTING THE SLUMP
Phoenix has lost four straight, six of its last seven, nine of its last 11 and 12 of its last 15 games. The four consecutive losses are a season high.
The longest losing streak of Tippett’s Phoenix tenure came last season when the team dropped seven straight (0-5-2) from March 14-27.
Canucks at Coyotes
When: 7 p.m. Thursday Where: Jobing.com Arena, Glendale TV: FOX Sports Arizona Radio: Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Records: Vancouver 24-15-9; Phoenix 21-16-9 Scouting the Canucks: Coyotes co-owner Anthony LeBlanc, via Twitter, called this the most important game of the new ownership group’s tenure, based on the standings. That may be a partial ploy to sell tickets, but the Canucks (57 points) are one of two Western Conference teams in playoff spots that are still less than 10 points ahead of the Coyotes (51 points). Phoenix has two games in hand on the Canucks and Vancouver is slumping badly, having lost seven of its last eight (1-4-3) including a 9-1 embarrassment Wednesday in Anaheim, which represented the most goals Vancouver has allowed since March of 2004 against Colorado. F Alex Burrows (IR, jaw) is skating but won’t play until the weekend. G Roberto Luongo (ankle) hasn’t played since Jan. 4. F Ryan Kesler leads the team in goals (17) while C Henrik Sedin leads the club in points (40) but hasn’t scored in more than a month. Brother Daniel Sedin hasn’t scored in the New Year (seven games). Vancouver has 142 penalty minutes in its last two games.