Originally posted on Fox Sports Arizona  |  Last updated 5/1/12
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- All through the postseason, the Coyotes have stressed the need for contributions on offense beyond the top line, and they've gotten it. But what they might not have seen coming is the significant contribution they've seen from their defense. Keith Yandle and Rostislav Klesla in particular have helped generate an offensive surge this postseason that now has the Coyotes ahead of Nashville two games to none. "Oh, man," Coyotes captain Shane Doan said Tuesday, shaking his head. "Those two have been phenomenal." The stats back up Doan's sentiments. Yandle, with seven assists, has more points than any defenseman in the playoffs. And right after him is Klesla, who has collected six points on two goals and four assists. Yandle's point total ties Oleg Tverdovsky (1998) for the highest point total by a Phoenix defenseman. "You look at (Yandle's) playoff record, he's been unbelievable," Doan said. "Last year, this year, the year before, too. He's so competitive and wants to be creative at the same time." Yandle is quick to deflect credit, keeping his focus on the team as a whole. Still, he knows just how much an offensively capable defense can do for a team in the playoffs. "We've got a lot of guys contributing here," Yandle said. "When the defense can help out and pitch in, that obviously helps and can go a long way." Yandle was more eager after Tuesday's practice to praise Klesla than talk about himself. If not for a waiting flight to Nashville waiting, Yandle probably have gone on much longer about Klesla's toughness. "He's been rock solid all year," Yandle said. "We joke around and call him 'warrior,' but he's the guy that's taking pucks to the face, sticks to the face and he's not missing much time. He's the kind of guy that wants to be out there helping his team." Klesla did indeed get up close and personal with a puck Sunday, leaving the game after just 33 seconds but returning later with a cage covering his face. Less than a week earlier, he caught a stick to the eye in Chicago and missed much of the first period but returned later. "Talk about battling and going through everything," Doan said. "It's cool to see the way he just keeps going." Klesla's recent offensive showing has been a bit of a flashback to his junior league days, when he scored 45 points one season and 54 the next, prompting the Blue Jackets to draft him fourth overall in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. At home on the road Between winning both regular season games at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville and taking three games from the Blackhawks in Chicago this postseason, the Coyotes have plenty of reason to be confident on the road. But confidence away from home has never been an issue for this group. "We're obviously comfortable playing on the road," coach Dave Tippett said. "We play a road style. Hard building to win at in Chicago, lots of energy, and we expect Nashville to be at that or better." The United Center in Chicago is known as "The Madhouse on Madison," but the Coyotes have won five in a row there. But that's irrelevant now. "At this point you have to start over again," forward Antoine Vermette said. "It's nice to have that confidence, to know we're capable of (winning on the road). It's still not going to be easy, and we have to prepare for that." Nashville doesn't come with the deep-rooted tradition Chicago did, but fan support has grown significantly since the team reached the second round of the playoffs for the first time last year. "It will be a great test for us to go in there and try to play well," Tippett said. "We won two games there this year. Our players recognize the hostility we're going into, and we're ready to go." Stars coming out Before Sunday's Game 2 in Phoenix, Tippett said he believed his top line, together and healthy for just the second time this postseason, could play at a higher level. Even after Radim Vrbata, Ray Whitney and Martin Hanzal combined for two goals and three assists in the game, Tippett still wasn't sure the group is quite there yet. "You can see they're starting to get their rhythm back," Tippett said after Game 2. "That's a good thing for us. When they go out and make good plays, it obviously makes us a better team." There may still be more to get out of the top line, but there's no doubt they're in a better place than in the entire first round, which saw them together just once due to Hanzal and Vrbata missing time. With a cumulative four points in Game 1 and five more on Sunday, the line has already nearly doubled its total of five points in the entire Chicago series.
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