September 15, 2013

Coyotes ready for game action

Phoenix's training camp kicks into high gear with two exhibition games Sunday and two more Monday.

By Paul Betit
Staff Writer

GLENDALE, Ariz. - After two days of drills, the Phoenix Coyotes got down to business on Saturday.

More than 40 of the 58 players at training camp participated in an intrasquad scrimmage at Arena in Glendale, Ariz.

The Coyotes, who are entering their third season as the NHL parent of the Portland Pirates, will play split-squad exhibition games the next two nights against the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks.

"It's going to be interesting playing against another team instead of our guys," said forward Jordan Martinook, a rookie with the Portland Pirates last season."

One group of Coyotes, including five forward lines, will travel to California to play Sunday night against the Kings and Monday against the Ducks. Another group will play those two teams at home at the same time.

"When you get doubleheaders like this, it gives lots of players an opportunity to be seen," Coyotes Coach Dave Tippett said. "It's a great opportunity to show what they can do."

Tippett liked what he saw in Saturday's scrimmage.

"There was obviously some good intensity, some good hitting," he said. "A lot of blocked shots. A couple of good goals. It was a good game."

Most of Phoenix's top players did not scrimmage,

"You've got young players who are pushing to get noticed," Tippett said. "You've got veteran players working hard to get in shape. It was a good scrimmage."

Tippett and the rest of the Coyotes' coaching staff observed while Pirates assistant coaches John Slaney and Mike Minard served as head coaches behind the benches.

The scrimmage, which consisted of two 30-minute periods with running time, ended in a 2-2 tie.

Martinook, who had nine goals and 10 assists for the Pirates last season, scored a short-handed goal. Former Pirates Tim Kennedy and Rob Klinkhammer and veteran Phoenix defenseman Derek Morris also scored.

Mark Louis, who is making the move to right wing after playing defense in his first two seasons with the Pirates, got into a brief encounter with Phoenix tough guy Paul Bissonette. Both players pulled their punches during the shoving match, which ended with Louis pulling Bissonette to the ice.

"He had his job to do, I had my job to do," Louis said.

RIGHT WING Jordan Szwarz has fully recovered from a shoulder injury that kept him out of the Pirates' lineup for the final month of last season.

"I got it surgically repaired and stuck to a good rehab program over the summer," he said. "Right now, I feel the healthiest I've been in awhile."

It's the first NHL training camp for Szwarz, who had 11 goals and 22 assists in 60 games with the Pirates last season. In 2011, a back injury kept him out of the training camp. Last fall, no NHL camps were held because of the player lockout.

ROOKIE FORWARD Lucas Lessio, who injured his right foot Tuesday during the final day of rookie camp, was on the ice for practice Saturday morning for the first time since the Coyotes' main training camp opened Thursday

"He skated pretty well today," Tippett said, "and he's going to come in with the mind-set he may play tomorrow."

DEFENSEMAN OLIVER EKMAN-LARSSON, who signed a six-year, $33 million contract in April, skated for the first time in practice Saturday morning.

Visa problems kept him in his native Sweden until Friday.

"He had his tail between his legs a little bit," Tippett joked, "but he got out and had a good workout."

Ekman-Larsson said he had to wait five weeks to obtain a new passport.

"I don't want to talk about it anymore," he said. "I'm real excited to be here."

Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at:

Twitter: PaulBetitPPH

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