The Phoenix Coyotes closed the book on the 2013 preseason with a 2-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Friday. In the team's final tune-up game before the New York Rangers come to town, players were looking to end on a high note and prepare for the regular season.
"For older guys, you have to get through (the preseason)." Radim Vrbata said. "You have to use it to your advantage."
Not everyone in the dressing room is fortunate enough to have a roster spot secured. Max Domi, Lucas Lessio and David Rundblad (Chris Brown and Chris Summers were scratched) came into the game fighting to stay with the main club.
Rundblad recorded a pair of assists and impressed Coach Dave Tippett who called him a "high-skill" player. The 22-year-old defenseman led all Coyotes with seven preseason points, all assists.
Lessio flew around the ice each shift, drawing the attention of his coaches and fans. He played on the third line with Antoine Vermette and David Moss, a spot he could slip into when the regular season begins on Thursday.
First round pick Max Domi is facing an additional challenge to make the roster. While Rundblad and Lessio are eligible to play in the AHL, Domi must go back to his junior team, the London Knights, if he does not make the team out of camp. If sent back to juniors, he will be unavailable to the team this season. The 18-year-old has shown flashes throughout training camp, but Tippett would only commit to a "we'll see" in regards to Domi snatching a roster spot.
"(Domi's) quickness you can tell out there. But your looking for him to generate a bit more," Tippett said. Known for his play-making and passing ability, Domi struggled to complete medium to long range passes on Friday night. Tippett said the team will not exercise the nine-game trial period with Domi, meaning a decision will come in the next few days.
Thomas Greiss bounced back from a poor performance in Vancouver on Monday to defeat his former team. Greiss stopped 25 of 26 shots to lead the Coyotes to victory. He is playing deeper in his net after working with goalie coach Sean Burke this offseason; a change made by starting goaltender Mike Smith when he first arrived in the Desert.
The power play remains red hot for the Coyotes as they scored another power play goal, the game-winning goal, on Friday. Tippett credits the additions of Mike Ribeiro and Rundblad for the power play's success.
The Coyotes broke the scoreless tie with 38 seconds remaining in the second period. Vrbata faked out San Jose goalie Alex Stalock before wrapping around the net and squeaking the puck over the goal line before Stalock could get back into position.
"Their goalie was overplaying everything tonight, so I thought if I could wrap around, I might have something," Vrbata said.
Bracken Kearns tied the game at 1 early in the third period after the Yotes were unable to clear their zone and defenseman Rundblad lost his stick. An elbowing penalty put Phoenix on the power play late in the third and they capitalized. Oliver Ekman-Larsson wristed the puck past Stalock with enough force to bounce in and out of the net to give Phoenix a 2-1 lead.
Phoenix found itself on the penalty kill with the game on the line. They killed the final 1:48 of the game to escape with a 2-1 victory.
One theme was clear after the preseason ended for the Coyotes, "it's going to be fun to play a real game," Ekman-Larsson said.
- Mike Ribeiro was the only Coyotes center to win the majority of his faceoffs (53 percent).
- Shane Doan practiced one-timers with Mike Smith passing to him in pre-game warm-ups.
- Coyotes killed all three San Jose power plays.
- Max Domi led the team in shots with four.
- Oliver Ekman-Larsson played over 25 minutes.
Our Three Stars of the Game
1. David Rundblad - Assisted on both goals, strong in offensive zone.
2. Thomas Greiss - Stopped all but one of the 26 shots he faced.
3. Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Scored game-winning goal on the power play.
The regular season will finally be here when the Coyotes take the ice for their next game. Opening night is Thursday against the New York Rangers at 7 p.m. The dawn of a new season is mere days away.