Phoenix Coyotes roundtable: the playoff push begins

Christian Petersen

The Olympic break is over and the Coyotes are in 9th place in the West with 24 games to go. Who needs to step up to push Phoenix into the playoffs for the fourth time in the last five seasons?

Would Keith Yandle have been the difference maker for Team USA in Sochi given their medal games results?

Brendan Porter: I think he would have helped in a couple of ways. Not only would his offensive skill set have helped the power play in the medal rounds, he also would have pushed someone lower on the depth chart into the press box. Though Dan Bylsma seemed hell-bent on riding Brooks Orpik and John Carlson into the ground, other defenseman like Cam Fowler and Justin Faulk looked overwhelmed by Canada's talent. They may not have won, but Yandle probably would have helped.

Christopher Hair: I don't know if Yandle would have gotten the Americans better results in Sochi in the medal games, but he certainly would have helped. His skating ability would have been a huge advantage on the open ice and his power play acumen would certainly have been useful as well. Anyone who watched their ugly 0-for-3 effort with the advantage against Canada can attest that a dynamic, puck-moving point-man would have been a nice addition. They might not have beaten the Canadians or Finns with Yandle, but I think they could have at least scored a goal with him in the red white and blue.

Carl Putnam (Alpha): It might have helped to boost the Team USA's power play. I'm not sure that would have been enough though to beat Canada. The Finland loss appeared to have as much to do with motivation as it did personnel or tactics once the Finns gained the lead in the 2nd period.

Carl Pavlock (Beta): I'm not sure if he would have been a big difference maker but I definitely think he would have made the team better. He may have been able to add something to Team USA's offense in the game against Canada, however I am not sure if there is anything he could have done that would have prevented their complete collapse against Team Finland.

Can Olympic dynamo Lauri Korpikoski carry over his Olympic success into a Sedona Red sweater?

Alpha: This is comparing apples to oranges. Korpikoski was playing on the Finns top line with a first ballot Hall of Famer in Teemu Selanne and soon to be superstar in Mikael Granlund. His success in Sochi probably won't hurt his confidence, but don't expect increased offense from him.

Jaime Eisner: Korpikoski's four points (2-2-4) in six games made him the most impressive Coyote in Sochi. However small sample size and usage had a lot to do with it. In Phoenix, Korpikoski plays significant PK time and second/third line minutes as opposed to playing on Finland's top line with the players Alpha mentioned. But, Korpikoski can pick up points, especially assists, in bunches. This season, Korpikoski has scored six points in a six-game stretch three times.

Beta: Korpikoski is a player who I always thought was a solid 3rd line player, and though he is great in the role, I never saw anything that would make me think he could do what he did during the Olympics. That being said, I'm still not sure if that was a true representation of his play or if he just found the right time to get really hot for his home country.

Christopher: Korpi played really good hockey in Sochi, earning the fourth most minutes among Finnish forwards in the tourney. The open ice helped him and I hope that his performance in the Games give him confidence to play at that level back here. We don't need him to be a star, but if he can be a steady producer the rest of the way, the Coyotes would benefit greatly.

Will Mike Smith pick up where he left off? Or will three weeks without playing, hinder his progress?

Barbie4Yotes: Mike Smith will be fine. In fact he should be completely at the top of his game, he just spent the past two weeks practicing with the best players in the world. Also, he will be extremely motivated coming home to get his team into the Stanley Cup Playoffs after getting a taste of what it's like to win a championship. He has seen first hand what it takes to win. The experience alone will make him a better player.

Christopher: Three weeks is a long time to not see any in-game action, but I actually think the Olympic experience will do Smith well. He got to practice against the best players in the world and was able to pick the brains of some of hockey's best minds. Time off can only help the goalie who has seen the most shots in the NHL this season and the way he was playing before the break indicates that getting selected to team Canada took a little bit of a load off of his mind.

Beta: I think he will pick up where he left off. He had a lot of time to recover, and hopefully he got the chance to practice with some great players and coaching staff. I also thinking winning the gold medal is going to boost his confidence, even though he didn't see ice time. Now that he doesn't have the Olympics looming in his future, he can focus on his play for the Coyotes.

Brendan: The only downside that Smitty not playing in the Olympics brings is he spent three weeks not working with Sean Burke when he otherwise could have. He got practice time in with some world class forwards, and he got some much needed rest, but that's about it.

Which current AHL player is the most likely to make a significant impact for the Coyotes?

Alpha: Connor Murphy would be my guess. If he gets recalled and plays third pairing minutes, I would feel comfortable saying he'd have a positive impact and would likely grab of spot in the lineup most nights. I don't see anyone else having much of an impact, especially with their reluctance to play David Rundblad, who is currently doing a conditioning stint down in Portland due to his inactivity in Phoenix. Even if the Yotes were to recall Brandon Gormley, I doubt he's have much of an impact given how little of the season is left. By the time he got acclimated to the NHL the season would be over.

Brendan: I think Brandon Gormley has the potential to be what Michael Stone was in the 2011-12 campaign. As Jaime wrote Wednesday, the Coyotes need a bottom pair shutdown defenseman. If Gormley can do that, their defense and penalty kill will be much improved and play a major role down the stretch.

Jaime: The player would have to be a defenseman at this point. Lucas Lessio has not been recalled since being sent down in October. Jordan Szwarz and Chris Brown have been up and back numerous times. If Miele hasn't earned an exteded call up yet, I don't think one is coming this season. Murphy is the obvious choice since he's been given the most time already, but a dark horse candidate is Chris Summers. If the Coyotes are looking for a stay-at-home LD and are willing to sacrifice some offensive skill, Summers fits the mold.

Beta: I think it all depends on if the coaching staff is willing to try someone in the AHL to fill the void they currently have at left wing. I think they need to give Andy Miele a chance in the NHL just to see what he can do, but I am not sure if is able to make the transition from center to left wing. Lessio has good numbers so far this season and could potentially be a call up and make an impact.

How many games does Phoenix need to win with 24 left in the season?

Brendan: Is all 24 an option? Seriously though, Phoenix needs somewhere between 15-20 victories to grab a playoff spot and avoid a tough first round opponent. I have questions about Dallas and Minnesota's ability to stay together down the stretch, so Phoenix could possibly get in while playing +.500 hockey. But if they can't do better than that, they'll run into a buzzsaw against either Anaheim or Chicago and a likely first round exit.

Christopher: Phoenix is currently at 64 points, tied for the 8th and final playoff spot in the West. I think that it's going to take 94 points to make the playoffs this season, which means that the Coyotes should shoot for 15 wins the rest of the way. The three-point games are going to make or break their playoff push and the more of them they can actually turn into wins the better. Fifteen wins should do it.

Alpha: Most likely, the Coyotes need to win 16 games (32 points) to make it into the playoffs. A tall order given how tough their schedule is.

Jaime: At the moment, 91 points is the projected cut-off line for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Fourteen wins would get the Coyotes above that mark. If they can manage to win 14-15 of the final 24 games, Phoenix should sneak into the postseason.

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