GLENDALE, Ariz. -- If the
Coyotes played in the Eastern Conference, their 22 points would be a good for a share of the conference lead with the
In the NHL's best division, the Pacific, those 22 points are only good enough for third place -- and just a mini-slump away from fifth.
"Our division is obviously pretty good," captain
Shane Doan said. "(A record of) 10-3-2 doesn't get you a lot right now."
Most analysts suspected that realignment would create some initial inequities as the league broke down its divisions based primarily on geography. But in spite of the loss of the
Red Wings to the Eastern Conference, the West is still far and away the better conference, tallying a 63-26-9 head-to-head record with the East heading into Tuesday's games.
Of the West's 14 teams, 13 had winning records against the Eastern Conference before Tuesday's games, with only the Oilers (3-7-1) sporting a losing mark.
The emergence of Colorado and
Phoenix has negated the loss of Detroit, but even within the mighty West, the Pacific has proven its preeminence on the ice with a 10-5-1 head-to-head record with the Central Division, which is home to the NHL-leading
Avalanche and the defending Stanley Cup champion
"If you get to the playoffs and come out of this division, that says a lot about you because you've beaten some pretty good teams and you've really earned that playoff spot," Coyotes forward
Radim Vrbata said. "It's not going to be easy to get there."
The Coyotes are at the tail end of stretch in which they play eight of 10 games against division opponents. So far, they are 4-1-1 in those division games, having earned nine of a possible 12 points, with games still remaining on Tuesday against the
Canucks and Wednesday against the
Ducks in Anaheim.
So will a long schedule chock full of Pacific opponents -- many of them big, hard-hitting teams -- help or hurt the Coyotes in the long run?
"Probably a little bit of both," Doan said. "I think it pushes you to be better, but obviously, if you’re in a position where you're fighting and clawing right at the end to try and get in (to the playoffs), it's going to wear you out. You have to take care of business early and try and get up in the pack. The points now count as much as in March and April."
TIPPETT SHRUGS OFF MILESTONE
Dave Tippett was predictably low-key about passing former Coyotes coach Bob Francis for the most coaching victories in franchise history.
"It just means I've been put in a great situation, surrounded by great people," said Tippett, who notched his 166th win with the Coyotes in a 3-2 shootout victory over the
Sharks in San Jose on Saturday.
Tippett has considerable ties to the Francis family. He played for Bobby's father, Emile Francis, who was the GM and then the president of the Hartford Whalers while Tippett was a player there from 1984-90. Tippett also interviewed with Bobby Francis (then the Coyotes coach) and former GM Bobby Smith for an assistant coaching position with Phoenix before taking a similar position with L.A., where he was an assistant from 1999-2002.
RIDING THE SEDINS
Since John Tortorella took over as the Canucks' coach, stars
Henrik Sedin and
Daniel Sedin have seen a significant increase in their playing time and responsibilities.
Kesler ranks first in the NHL in average ice time among forwards at 22 minutes, 57 seconds per game, while Henrik Sedin (22:47) ranks second and Daniel Sedin (22:25) ranks fourth. Last season, under Alain Vigneault, Henrik Sedin was 42nd (19:20), Daniel Sedin was 54th (19:01) and Kesler was 57th (18:57).
Tortorella is using them on the penalty-killing unit in addition to their normal responsibilities on the power play and 5-on-5. He even put Kesler on a line with the Sedins recently, a move that could last a while.
"John uses his top players a lot, and those guys are producing for him. That makes them a dangerous team," Tippett said.
Heading into Tuesday's game in Glendale, Henrik was third in the NHL in points (19), Daniel was tied for seventh (16), Kesler had 12 points and the Canucks' penalty-killing unit was ranked third in the league (87.3 percent).
REUNION FOR BROWN
The Coyotes expected former Canucks assistant Newell Brown to follow Alain Vigneault to
New York after the
Vancouver staff was fired and the
Rangers hired Vigneault. But when the chance came to grab him for a spot that John Anderson had just vacated, the Coyotes jumped, hoping to improve their horrid power play.
Phoenix finished the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season ranked 25th in the NHL on the power play at 14.6 percent. The year before, the Coyotes were 29th at 13.6 percent.
This season, the Coyotes are 14th at 19.6 percent and they’ve already scored 11 power-play goals in 15 games.
"He's got some new and different ideas for us on the power play that I think have really helped us," Tippett said. "Sometimes you hear a different voice, a different way to say things -- that's all players need."
Defenseman Rusty Klesla skated Monday and is likely to return to the lineup Tuesday against the Canucks. His return could help stabilize a defensive corps that has been committing too many turnovers and struggling with defensive zone coverage -- the younger players being the biggest culprits.
Jeff Halpern (upper body) and defenseman
David Schlemko (lower body) skated Monday but left the ice early. Tippett does not anticipate either playing against Vancouver.
The Coyotes signed free-agent center Tyler Gaudet to a three-year entry-level contract on Monday. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound Gaudet has 10 goals and 22 points with a plus-10 rating in 16 games with Sault Ste. Marie (OHL) this season. He ranks second on the team in points and goals and is also tied for the team lead in plus/minus.
"He's a big centerman that plays a big, strong game -- a very smart player," Tippett said. "He's not a flashy player, but he has a chance to be a good, solid pro."
Gaudet will finish the season in the OHL and then turn pro in the AHL.