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Phoenix Coyotes 2011-2012 Season Preview: The Forwards

Well, the one area that probably will have lots of similarities from last season our the guys coming off the wings, as most of them were with the Coyotes for most, if not all, of last season. When you look at the list of names, it is possibly the easiest to see why many "experts" are wondering if the Coyotes can make it three trips to the Stanley Cup Playoffs in a row. Although I don't necessarily agree with those pundits, I do wonder just where all the offense might be coming from with this collection of players. The good news is, they are a pretty stout defensively-minded group that plays with a team-first attitude. So if the team is going to be successful, most of these guys will need to chip in at least 5-10 goals this year and be positives in plus/minus.

Let's take a look at who is on board after the jump.

Paul Bissonnette - BizNasty may be the league's great Twitterer, but he's certainly not going to be challenging for the Rocket Richard trophy any time soon. That being said, Biz has surprisingly good hands and his play improves greatly when he gets more ice time. Despite scoring only a single goal last season, he finished +6 and he is a good presence on the ice with a Boedker or Miele (when he returns) to free up some space to make plays. With a new two-year deal under his belt, I expect to see a lot more BizNasty this year and a bit more than the 5 points he recorded two seasons ago.

Mikkel Boedker - if any player on the 'Yotes is going to break out and surprise folks, it's going to be the young Dane. People forget that Boedker is still only 21 years old and still filling out. His defensive game has improved greatly and he is a sneaky player with the puck with good speed and the ability to finish his shots. 20 goals is definitely not out of the question for Boedker and I'd expect to see a healthy dose of him on the power play as well.

Shane Doan - Captain Coyote is still the driving force of this team with his unrelenting physical style and ability to find the net. Although his point totals have been lower the past two seasons, it is not unthinkable for Doan to return to the point per game pace that he was maintaining just three seasons back. Injuries (and the odd suspension) kept Doan off the ice for 10 games last season, but a full year should see Doan recording another 25-30 goals and 70 or so points. He has great chemistry with newly returned center Daymond Langkow, and I expect we will see them and Whitney playing together most of the year for a slightly older, but very effective top unit.

Lauri Korpikoski - last season's breakout star will look to prove that it wasn't a fluke when he recorded 19 goals, 21 assists and a plus 17 rating while playing impressively on the PK unit. There is little not to like about Korpikoski as he has good speed, a sniper's ability to bury a shot, a willingness to give the body and block shots and a pretty good shootout record (at least two years ago). Korpikoski will probably be a wild card filling in time with a variety of linemates, but I expect to see similar numbers to last year so long as he can stay healthy.

Taylor Pyatt - Pyatt has quietly had two good seasons in Phoenix and will be playing for a long-term contract at the end of the year. If his offensive numbers continue to trend upwards, he may reach the 20 goal mark and 40 points. It will be interesting to see how he adapts to playing on a line with Martin Hanzal as I've seen a bit during the preseason. He was good at crashing the net last year while playing with Vernon Fiddler and that seems to also be where the coaches are getting Hanzal to position himself.

Raffi Torres - Torres has never quite had the offensive prowess that many expected when he was first drafted, but he is a grinder and should fit in well with Dave Tippett's system so long as he can keep himself away from taking stupid penalties. Despite his reputation as an agitator, it is interesting to note that Torres has never had more than 88 penalty minutes in a season.

Radim Vrbata - The Czechs certainly got paid this offseason, as both Vrbata and Hanzal signed fairly lucrative extensions with the Coyotes. And it's for good reason - they play pretty darn well together as Vrbata has put up his three best seasons in the NHL playing in the Valley and Hanzal just continues to improve his overall game. Vrbata's only real problem (besides an occasionally lazy back check) is when he forgets to shoot the puck. He's the sniper on his unit and he has to put the puck on net consistently.

Ray Whitney - The Wizard is truly an ageless wonder and had a terrific season last year at 38. The Coyotes are hoping that his playmaking continues to shine and his ability to control the pace of the power play and make solid feeds helps improve that unit from its past abysmal quality. Ray will also serve as a great mentor for Andy Miele should he rejoin the team as they share similar sizes and I expect Miele could learn a lot about how to be successful in this league by following Ray's example.