Shorthanded Coyotes receive message, down Kings

GLENDALE, Ariz. — This cycle of events will play out several more times this season. The Coyotes will get a little lax with their structure and defensive game, coach Dave Tippett will growl loudly, and the pack will close ranks again.
That’s what happened in Tuesday’s 3-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings at Arena, but the circumstances made it a little more satisfying for the home team.
Phoenix played the game without suspended center Martin Hanzal, injured fourth-line center Jeff Halpern, injured wing Lauri Korpikoski and injured defenseman Rusty Klesla, making the lineup a patchwork of juggled lines and minor league players like Jordan Szwarz and Andy Miele.
Despite all the changes, the Coyotes got strong efforts up and down the lineup and in between the pipes from goalie Mike Smith (41 saves) to avenge an embarrassing 7-4 loss in Los Angeles five days earlier, followed by a sloppy 5-4 win over Edmonton on Saturday.
“It was the kind of response we were looking for from our group — just more competitive,” Tippett said. “Sometimes, you have young guys that are looking for an opportunity and sometimes they give you energy.”
That was the case with Szwarz and Miele, who notched his first career point on the Coyotes’ first goal, then made a nice play at the Kings’ blue line to keep the puck in the zone and help set up Kyle Chipchura’s goal for a 3-0 lead early in the third period.
The Miele-Chipchura-David Moss line was the Coyotes’ most productive and most effective on Tuesday, notching five points, with Chipchura recording the Gordie Howe hat trick (goal, assist, fight).
“We played simple hockey and got pucks to the net,” Miele said. “That’s how we got the outcome we wanted.”
Phoenix also got a spiffy redirect from Shane Doan for his third goal of the season, seven blocked shots from Zbynek Michalek and perhaps the best effort since the season-opener from Smith.
“I was seeing (the puck), but I wasn’t real happy with the way I was holding onto it,” Smith said. “I found rebounds were kind of going out all over the place, and I’m not real pleased with that, but in front of me, I thought we did a lot better job of boxing guys out and getting rid of rebounds.”
The win helped the Coyotes close this mini-stretch of four Pacific Division games with a 3-1 record to help keep pace in what is shaping up as the NHL’s best division. It also improved the Coyotes’ record to 5-0-1 on home ice, despite a smallish crowd of 10,452.
With only five more weeknight home games before the New Year, the Coyotes won’t have to play in front of too many more of these crowds. And if they keep producing these kinds of efforts on home ice, Smith said, they’ll start building the belief that they will find ways to win in Glendale.
“We take pride in playing here and doing well here,” he said. “But it’s nice to be able to win at home so you take some of that heat off when you go on the road, so there’s a practical aspect to it, too.”