Coyotes notebook: No distractions this year

April 9, 2012

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- A year ago, the Coyotes' heads were spinning.

Prospective buyer Matthew Hulsizer had taken the team out for New Asian cuisine at Sunda restaurant in Chicago and later promised FOX Sports Arizona that "this deal is gonna close" to keep the team in Phoenix.

Meanwhile, rampant Canadian media reports insisted the team was headed to Winnipeg to resolve its 2-year-old ownership issue, with several of those reports ill-timed as the Coyotes began the playoffs against the Detroit Red Wings.

"There were so many conflicting reports," coach Dave Tippett said. "It wasn't just Game 1 (against Detroit) -- it seemed like the whole last half of the year. There were way more distractions. We had a reporter from Winnipeg following us around here all the time."

This year, not so much. While the ownership situation remains in limbo and the possibility exists that a Canadian media outlet will drop another bombshell (maybe they'll wait until Thursday), Tippett said this spring has largely been free of distractions.

"The NHL has done a great job," Tippett said. "This year, the distractions have been very limited. It's been quiet, which has been a real good thing from our end."


Tippett said defenseman Adrian Aucoin (lower body) will be ready for Game 1 of the team's playoff series with the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday, meaning every player is healthy and available.

The Coyotes had an optional skate Monday, with a scattering of players taking part.


Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews met with reporters after practice and remained uncertain about his status for Thursday's game after missing the season's final 22 contests with a concussion and the corresponding symptoms.

"I wanted to err on the cautious side by me not playing," he said of the long layoff. "I'm feeling more confident Thursday might be the day, but we'll see."

Toews has been cleared for contact for a while, and it was notable that he was centering the Blackhawks' top line in practice Monday, but he said late last week that he still doesn't feel quite right.

Coach Joel Quenneville sounded more optimistic, however.

"There (are) all the hurdles to cross along the way, and he's passed them all," Quenneville said. "We'll visit with him as we go along the next few days."

Most of the media members who cover the team on a regular basis expect Toews to play. His presence would change the dynamic of this series, because until he was injured, Toews was headed for a big year with 29 goals and 28 assists in 59 games. He's also a talented two-way forward who also brings a steadying influence to the team despite his young age (23).


The Coyotes went 3-1 against the Hawks this season, but Tippett said not to read too much into that.

"If we had played twice in the last few weeks, you'd get a little better indication, but we haven't played them since February," Tippett said. "You get to the playoffs, everything starts new. They're a good team. We're going to have our hands full."


Tippett's style is widely referred to as a defensive one. Clearly, the Coyotes still need to score goals, but focusing on the defensive zone first may take a little away from the team's offense.

"It keeps you from cheating," wing Ray Whitney said. "You maybe don't get as many breakaways as you'd like, but it takes care of the No. 1 end, and that's your own. Playoff hockey is usually defensive hockey. Scoring chances are limited. If you're used to that all year long, it's not as big an adjustment for you.

"Offensive players who have to tighten up, generally in the playoffs, it will take a few games for them to grab that concept. We won't have that problem in here."