Tippett: ‘Coaches and players don’t play for draft picks’

Sabres center Tyler Ennis (63) is congratulated on his goal in the first period by left wing Matt Moulson (26) and left wing Johan Larsson (22). The last-place Sabres host the Coyotes on Thursday night.

Tom Szczerbowski/Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sport

Coyotes coach Dave Tippett dispelled the notion that the Coyotes are tanking in blunt fashion before Arizona faced the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday at Joe Louis Arena.

"Losing sucks," he said. "You’re in this business to win. When you don’t win it sucks."

The Coyotes beat Detroit and the smiles on their faces after the game made it clear how much they enjoyed it. But as a consequence, the Buffalo Sabres lead Arizona by five points heading into Thursday’s much-anticipated matchup at First Niagara Center between the two teams with the best odds of finishing 30th in the NHL standings and earning the league’s only guarantee of drafting either Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel.

COYOTES at SABRES

When: 4 p.m. Thursday
Where: First Niagara Center, Buffalo
TV: FOX Sports Arizona
Season series: 0-0
Injuries: Arizona — RW Mikkel Boedker (splenectomy) and C Martin Hanzal (back surgery) are out for the season. F Lauri Korpikoski (mouth) is day to day. Buffalo — RW Tyler Ennis (illness) is day to day. C Zemgus Girgensons (foot), D Josh Gorges (lower body), LW Evander Kane (shoulder surgery) and C Cody McCormick (blood clot) are on injured reserve. G Chad Johnson (lower body) is out indefinitely. RW Jerry D’Amigo (face) won’t play Thursday. D Zach Bogosian (lower body) and RW Patrick Kaleta (lower body) are day to day and could return.
Quick facts: Since the All-Star break, the Coyotes (15) and Sabers (16) have second and third fewest points in the NHL. Toronto has the fewest with 13. … Coyotes assistant GM Darcy Regier was the Sabres GM from 1997-2013. … F Tyler Ennis leads the Sabres with 18 goals and 40 points.

There has been an odd and sometimes comical hype leading up to this game because of the stakes, but Tippett wasn’t in the mood to discuss that storyline on Wednesday in Buffalo.

"That’s your guys’ hype, not our hype," he said. "I think they’ve talked about it a lot more in Buffalo than we have here in Arizona. For us, we have a lot of players that are playing for jobs; they’re not playing for draft picks. Coaches and players don’t play for draft picks. I think players are just focused on playing well and coaches are worried about coaching well."

Coaches and players don’t want to be the butt of jokes, either.

"You go into a game thinking ‘how am I going to play well enough to win?’" Tippett said. "You don’t go into a game thinking, ‘how I am I going to play badly so we lose?"

It may not matter at this point. With eight games to play, the Coyotes lead over the Sabres is essentially six points since Buffalo has five fewer regulation or overtime wins (ROW), which is the first tiebreaker in determining who finishes last.

The Coyotes would probably need to lose both meetings with Buffalo over the next five days in regulation, then need Buffalo to earn two additional points elsewhere. The teams’ schedules are fairly comparable over the last two weeks, not that it matters to the players.

"I don’t think your effort is ever going to be affected as much by your standings as a player because you only get so many games," captain Shane Doan said. "If you take nights off or you don’t do your job, you’re not going to do it for as long. 

"I think everyone that plays in the NHL is ultra-competitive and wants to find a way to win anything that they’re in. I think that’s why you get the commitment from the players and that’s good. You have to find a way to represent the NHL."

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