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Countdown to Preseason: 53 days

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In 53 days, our Phoenix Coyotes will drop the puck against the Los Angeles Kings for the first game of the 2012 NHL Preseason. The two teams will play split-squad games, with one match-up at Staples Center and another here in Glendale at Arena.

In light of the fact the preseason is only 53 days away, let us take a quick look at one of our stud defensemen, Derek Morris (#53)

Morris was the 1st round, 13th overall pick for the Calgary Flames in 1996. He spent 5 years in Calgary before moving on to the Colorado Avalanche. In 2003, Morris came to the Phoenix Coyotes in a trade that sent a couple of players and a second round draft pick (Paul Stastny) to the Avs. His first stay with the Coyotes was largely successful. This lasted for 4 and a half years before he was traded to the New York Rangers for Dmitri Kalinin, Petr Prucha and Nigel Dawes.

Eventually, Morris made his way back to the desert in a trade with the Boston Bruins in exchange for a conditional 3rd round draft pick (Anthony Camara). Since his return to the Coyotes, Morris has made it to the playoffs every year.

The veteran defenseman's strengths include an aggressive style as well as an absolute bomb of a slapshot. One of his main highlights from this past season would have to be the center line goal that he scored against Jonathan Quick in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals.

Morris' veteran presence on the ice and his ability to play 20+ minutes per game are a key component of the defense-oriented "Coyote Ugly" brand of Phoenix hockey. His presence in the locker room will be significantly valuable to younger defensive prospects like Oliver Ekman-Larrson, Brandon Gormley and David Rundblad.