Coyotes play waiting game as lockout drags on

Dave Tippett has a lot of experience guiding dogs through the desert. But walking his male border collie, Ozzy, and his female red heeler, Karma, wasn’t what the Coyotes coach had in mind.

“I don’t know if it’s habitual or what, but at this time of year, I always feel like I need to be somewhere,” Tippett said Thursday. “Now I don’t.”

Tippett, the rest of the Coyotes and the rest of the National Hockey League were supposed to be preparing for opening night of the regular season on Thursday. Four games were on the slate, with Phoenix due to open Saturday at home against Dallas.

Instead, Tippett is engaged in other activities to keep his mind off the NHL lockout, which has already wiped out training camp, preseason and the first two weeks of the regular season.

He flew back to Portland, Maine, recently to attend training camp for the club’s AHL affiliate. He’s also been breaking down film of the Coyotes’ opponents with the coaching staff.

“A lot of times during our season, we’re so geared to what our team is doing,” Tippett said. “Sometimes it’s interesting to do an analysis of what other teams are doing.”

But is it enough to keep Tippett’s mind off of what he isn’t doing?

“No,” he said, “but we’ll say it is.”

With negotiations still contentious and no end to the lockout in sight, nearly everyone involved with the organization is seeking alternatives to the NHL. Winger Lauri Korpikoski is currently playing for TPS Turku in the Finnish Elite League. The club opens its season next weekend, but Korpikoski will see Coyotes teammate Mikkel Boedker on Friday when Boedker’s Finnish club, Rauman Lukko, plays a game near Turku.

“That’s as close as I’ll get to a Phoenix teammate,” Korpikoski said, laughing.

Korpikoski played for TPS Turku for two seasons before he joined the American Hockey League. There was a rumor circulating that he might remain with the club if the lockout weren’t resolved by November, but he dismissed that idea, noting that he is only under contract for the first six games of the season.

After that, he’s considering playing for the national team in three games against Russia, Sweden and the Czech Republic on Nov. 7, 9 and 10.

“Obviously if the season gets canceled, I’ll play somewhere else,” Korpikoski said. “But I think I might come back to Phoenix next month and stay until I know for sure.”

The only other player known to have signed with another team is defenseman Rusty Klesla, who is playing with HC Oceláři Třinec in the Czech Extraliga, the premier league in the Czech Republic. Klesla also played in the Czech Extraliga during the last lockout in 2004-05.

Center Martin Hanzal completed rehab of a playoff injury in the Valley and returned to the Czech Republic, where he may be considering playing.

“I guess that’s the reason I wanted to start playing — so I can get my mind off of thinking about the lockout,” Korpikoski said. “I can’t sit at home watching TV all day. It’s depressing. I’ve been playing a long time, so my body and mind think it’s go time.”

Tippett said that if the lockout wears on, he’ll probably hit the road to watch some AHL and junior games. Otherwise, it’s Ozzy and Karma time.

“When we got the border collie years ago, my daughter said he’s wild and crazy like Ozzy Osbourne, so that’s how he got his name,” Tippett said, laughing. “It’s not much, but that’s all I’ve got to think about right now.”

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