Originally posted on Fox Sports Arizona  |  Last updated 3/7/12
GLENDALE, Ariz. Those recurring first-period deficits are an easy focal point for whats ailing the Coyotes during this four-game losing streak. Theyre important, but the issues run far deeper. Its more mistake oriented than it is coming out flat, said coach Dave Tippett, who had never lost four consecutive games in regulation as Phoenixs coach before Tuesdays 3-2 setback in Columbus. Mistakes happen throughout a game, but they happen more often when players are tired from playing heavy minutes or playing more high-pressure situations. That might be a factor in goalie Mike Smiths below average play the past few games as he prepares to make his 55th start. It may also explain why forward Radim Vrbata just matched his longest goal-less drought of the season (seven games). But its absolutely been a factor with the Coyotes defense, which has been without three mainstays David Schlemko (25 games), Rostislav Klesla (nine games) and Derek Morris (11 games) -- for an extended stretch. Their absences have added minutes to Keith Yandle, Adrian Aucoin, Michal Rozsival and Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who have each made their share of costly mistakes during this slump. The injury woes also have highlighted the youth of defensemen like Chris Summers, who has struggled of late as hes asked to do more. When the Coyotes were riding the positive momentum of an 11-0-1 February, they were able to mask those issues and seemingly develop immunity to the consequences. But eventually like during this four-game slide that has coincided with the calendar turning to March the odds were bound to catch up with them. Tippett said Wednesday that he is hopeful Klesla will return to the lineup for Saturdays huge game with Pacific Division rival San Jose. That would be a big relief, even if the timelines on Morris and Schlemko are less certain. It means eating up some of those minutes, Tippett said. We need to get our defense healthy again. In the meantime, the Coyotes have to find a way to get back to basics, starting with Thursday night's home against against Minnesota. They wont enjoy any extended practice time to work on fundamentals until March 26, when they get a three-day break before hosting the Sharks on the 29th. Between now and then, theyll face 10 consecutive Western Conference foes nine of whom are still in the playoff race. You go undefeated (in regulation) for a month and youre obviously flying pretty high feeling pretty confident, said forward Gilbert Brule, who highlighted some tactical problems hes seeing. Little details. Were not getting pucks deep sometimes. Theres little turnovers. Guys are wanting to get a (line) change, and then we turn the puck over in our own end and we get tired. And obviously, we need some secondary scoring, too. We cant just rely on the top guys to be scoring all the goals. A week ago, the Coyotes were sitting atop the Pacific Division standings and thinking about home-ice advantage for the playoffs. Now theyre in seventh place in the West, just two points removed from a spring with no postseason. That is cause for concern, but in the streak- and slump-filled West, 15 games is plenty of time to get the ship righted, especially with four key games upcoming against division rivals San Jose (three) and Dallas (one). We still control a lot of our own destiny, and thats the good thing about it, Tippett said. But the fact of the matter is those teams are all saying the same thing also.
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