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Phoenix Coyotes Ups and Downs: Checking In at Midway

The Coyotes are at the halfway point in the season and it's been a bumpy ride thus far. Today we'll take a look at the players on the active roster (or who have seen significant time there) and give them some quick takes.

Not many Coyotes players are tackling their jobs as effectively as Vermette this year.
Not many Coyotes players are tackling their jobs as effectively as Vermette this year.

The Phoenix Coyotes compiled a 6-5-1 record over the past dozen games and currently sit at 11-10-3, good for 9th in the Western Conference, but right in the thick of the great mish-mash of teams that fall somewhere between the Blackhawks and Ducks and the Blue Jackets and Avalanche (although to be fair to the BJs and Avs - they are only 5 points behind the Coyotes right now).

This second quarter of the season saw disappointing losses across Western Canada, a three-game series split with Anaheim and a few less than stellar outings against Minnesota and St. Louis on home ice. The record over this quarter actually is masking what has been some frankly poor play and I can only imagine that Head Coach Dave Tippett is looking for his team to show a lot more in the coming games.

The kiddie gloves are off and we're breaking out more red ink than we did first we go:

Goalies Trend Notes
Chad Johnson With Smith coming back healthy, Johnson has been relegated back to Portland and barring another injury, he will likely be staying there the rest of the season.
Jason LaBarbera Barbs should file a lawsuit for his lack of support. In the two games he's appeared in this quarter, he's turned aside 27 of 28 shots, keeping the Coyotes in both games, but unable to get a win.

Mike Smith
There have been some decent games this stretch, including a shutout win over Calgary, but Smitty's play has been at best inconsistent, and at worst, bad. In his last four outings he's allowed 4, 4, 4, and 6 goals. It's not all on Smith as the D has been pretty bad too, but the Coyotes need him to bring his save percentage back over .900 and start stealing some games for them.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson Continues to be the best blue-liner on the team, although his decision-making has looked questionable more often than normal in recent games. He's currently 12th in the NHL in time on ice per game at over 25 minutes and Tip certainly relies on him at all times. His shootout winner against the Ducks was also pretty sweet.
Rostislav Klesla Doesn't get nearly the credit he deserves for being a top shut-down d-man. Despite the general awfulness the team looked last night, he actually finished the game a +1. He'll never score a lot of points, but he keeps the opposition from scoring better than most.
Zbynek Michalek Z, like Klesla, isn't going to score a lot of points, but you'd expect more than 2 assists this far into the season. He leads the team (6th in the NHL) in blocked shots with 58, but he doesn't seem to be shutting things down as well as he has in the past.
Derek Morris DMo should probably be an incomplete for this quarter as he missed 5 games in the middle with an injury. He's been a -1 each game since returning from the injury, but he still looks leaps better than he did last year.
David Schlemko It looks like Schlem is on the mend, but he hasn't seen the ice this quarter.
David Rundblad With all the injuries, Rundblad was given the chance to take the 6th d spot, but his inconsistent and generally unproductive play has returned him to the press box on a nightly basis. I wonder if he wouldn't be better served getting more playing time in Portland right now.
Michael Stone 6th dman du jour has been fairly good in the role and has recorded 2 goals and an assist during the most recent quarter. He is still prone to young d-man mistakes, but more often than not he makes the right play and gets the job done.
Chris Summers Can't honestly recall if he played any other games after the Chicago one, or whether he was immediately relegated to Portland - either way, we haven't seen much of him here.
Keith Yandle He continues to commit costly turnovers, but he's contributing on the offensive side of the equation more too with 3 goals and 4 assists over the past 12 games. His 3-assist game against Columbus skews things, but also shows how good he can be when he gets rolling.

Paul Bissonnette BizNasty had perhaps the greatest string of games in his career earlier this quarter, when he had assists in three straight - even if they were pretty greasy. It didn't last, but he's still been creating energy when he's in the lineup, even if he only gets 6-8 minutes.
Mikkel Boedker The offense exploded a bit, but he's been on the ice for waaay too many goals against recently. He is tied for the team lead in points and has scored some sweet goals, but he needs to keep it going and continue working on his defensive play.
Alexandre Bolduc He's back down in Portland now, and was passed over on the recent call-up that allowed Chris Brown to get into a game (Brown was ok, but took a costly penalty on a bad turnover in the defensive zone and earned a quick hook back to the Pirates).
Kyle Chipchura Easily (and shockingly) my player of the quarter for the Coyotes as he recorded 4 goals and 5 assists playing mostly on the 4th line with Biz and Johnson, but also seeing some time with Doan and other more offensive players. He's grinding well, bringing energy, and showing a remarkable touch with the puck of late.
Shane Doan He's cut down on his penalties taken significantly and is seeing more of the score sheet, but still hasn't really shown his best, in my opinion. I expect a lot from Captain Coyote and I know he has it in him. We've seen flashes, but this team needs him to really get going soon.

Boyd Gordon I don't expect Boyd to score lots of goals, but chipping in one here or there would be nice. He only had 2 assists over the past quarter although he continues to be one of the team's best penalty killers and faceoff guys.
Martin Hanzal Marty also had a short injury during this quarter that saw him miss several games. Since returning, he has looked a bit out of sorts (missing his favorite winger is not helping), and the Coyotes need him to find his scoring touch again and start producing, especially on the power play.
Nick Johnson Johnson's been in and out of the line-up recently, but his play this quarter did not nearly match his play in the first quarter. His ice time has been dropped significantly and you wonder if there are things that the coaches are seeing that is causing such a change. With the offensive struggles the team has been having, it would be nice for him to find his scoring touch again.
Lauri Korpikoski He shows flashes, like the 2-goal game against Anaheim last week, but those are the only goals he's scored in the last 12 games. He needs to find some more consistency in his point production to go with all the other things he is doing on the ice.
Matthew Lombardi He seems to have fully returned from his early season injury, although he got dinged up again last night against the Blues and missed a few shifts. Like Korpi, he is showing flashes of his scoring ability and his speed, but not on a consistent basis. Would really like to see him explode for a 4-5 game point streak.

Andy Miele
He continues to rack up points in the AHL, but you wonder if he will ever be able to translate his talents to the big stage.
David Moss He has 3 points in his last 4 games including the Coyotes' first short-handed goal of the season (and the first of his career). Plays in all situations and is generally not caught out of position. Would like to see him produce a bit more, but a solid two-way forward so far for the Coyotes.
Steve Sullivan It was nice to see him tie the game against Anaheim and score in the shoot-out, but too often he is making bad plays in the offensive zone that lead to rushes back up the ice. For the amount of ice time he is received, especially on the power play, he needs to produce more - he can start by taking a significantly higher number of shots.
Raffi Torres He's been amazing against Calgary, fairly invisible against everyone else. He looked super fast when he first got back, but it seems to have slowed recently. Can't say that I've seen him make any questionable hits of note, and that is reflected in his only having taken 9 PIMs on the season.
Antoine Vermette Continues to be a bit snake bitten when it comes to scoring goals, but has been consistently the best all around forward for the 'Yotes. Leads the team in faceoff percentage (61%), and all forwards in blocked shots (20).
Radim Vrbata This team needs Vrby to get healthy and come back. He's missed the last 9 games and the entire dynamic of everything appears off despite some of the wins they have been recording. Despite all his time out, he's still tied for 5th on the team in points with 12. Hopefully he is back soon.