Don't forget about the Phoenix Coyotes

Everyone is focused on Chicago, Washington, Pittsburgh, San Jose and
Buffalo (and some others of course) but unfortunately the only coverage
the Phoenix Coyotes are getting this year generally have to do with the
situation surrounding their ownership issues.

Yet the Coyotes are a
team that has maintained a high level of play all season, have a great
shot at being successful in the playoffs and barring a historic collapse
will finish with the best regular season in team history, and the best
since Winnipeg’s 43-win season in 1985.

The Coyotes sit 4th in the
West and most likely will not finish any higher unless they find a way
to overcome San Jose for first in the Pacific.

With a win tonight, the Coyotes will have the best regular season in franchise history, starting to put the finishing touches on one of the more remarkable turnarounds a team
has had from one season to the next.

Dave Tippett has instilled a
sense of professionalism and pride in a team that has been lost for far
too many years. I understand the hope was that Wayne Gretzky would have
been able to do the same, but he’s just another example that not every
former great player can translate their skill into coaching.

At
the beginning of the season some — including myself — believed that
the Coyotes were winning based on the exceptional play of Ilya
Bryzgalov. Yet if you watch them play you see that it’s not just great
goaltending that’s leading the Coyotes, it’s the fact that this is a
team that truly plays as a team. Every player buys into the
system and what their role is and it translates into the product on the
ice.

This is a team that can be very dangerous in the playoffs,
and will be one that no one wants to face in the postseason. Their
confidence in the system and in each other will be extremely valuable,
and Tippett’s defensive style will frustrate any team that relies on
it’s offense to win games. He’s brought some old-school approaches to
Phoenix and it’s causing nothing but trouble for their opponents.

They
aren’t without their flaws, however. The Coyotes struggle to score
goals, which led to the number of moves they made at the trade deadline.
The power play is the worst in the NHL, and the team is hoping that
Mathieu Schneider can help cure some of their extra-man woes. And while
their winning has started to bring fans back, you can’t exactly say that
Phoenix has home-ice advantage at this point.

Just making it out of the first round of the playoffs will be a
heck of an accomplishment and something the Coyotes have never done
since moving to Phoenix.

The disparity between what’s happening on
ice and what’s happening off ice with the Coyotes is jarring, but under
Tippett’s steady approach the team is much more calm and reliable than
their ownership situation. And it couldn’t have come at a better time;
the NHL is strictly against moving the team if at all possible and with
the Coyotes winning again — and if they continue to win in the playoffs
— then it will become much tougher to do so in the near future.

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    Video: Things get heated before Lightning – Islanders Game 3

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    You know a playoff series is starting to rev up when teams can’t even peacefully share an ice surface during warm-ups.

    The New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning seemed to draw a red line in the sand between each other before Game 3, with the two sides exchanging a couple bumps and mean looks.

    It’s … honestly a pretty amusing spectacle.

    You can watch it all in the video above. Perhaps this GIF will fuel a meme or two:

    Brian Boyle downplayed the exchange(s):

    Penguins bring up Sestito and Oleksy

    New Jersey Devils right wing Jordin Tootoo (22) fights with Pittsburgh Penguins left wing Tom Sestito (47) during the first period of an NHL hockey game Sunday, March 6, 2016, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
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    The Pittsburgh Penguins recalled tough guys Tom Sestito and Steve Oleksy from the AHL on Tuesday.

    This move makes a sense for a couple of reasons.

    Most clearly, things are getting nasty between the Penguins and Washington Capitals, so Pittsburgh is bringing in a couple of brutes. Each player isn’t shy about piling up penalty minutes, whether that be in the NHL or AHL.

    The other reason: with injuries and Kris Letang‘s suspension, Oleksy could provide some depth. Justin Schultz is motivated to prove himself, yet Oleksy provides a little insurance.

    Is it the ideal scenario in a big playoff game? Nope, but if brute force ends up being a factor, the Penguins added some muscle.

    WATCH LIVE: Lightning at Islanders – Game 3

    New York Islanders left wing Matt Martin (17) flights near the net with Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Ryan Callahan (24),center,  and defenseman Victor Hedman (77), of Sweden, during the first period of Game 2 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Eastern Conference semifinals Saturday, April 30, 2016, in Tampa, Fla. Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Ben Bishop (30) falls on the ice. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
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    The Tampa Bay Lightning will look to take the series lead for the first time against the New York Islanders, who are trying to regain the advantage on home ice at the Barclays Center after a split in Tampa Bay. You can catch Game 3 between these teams on NBCSN (7 p.m. ET) or online with the NBC Sports’ Live Extra.

    CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

    Here are some links to check out for tonight’s game:

    Strome saga continues, will be a healthy scratch for Game 3

    Halak practices fully, hoping to be back soon

     

    Anisimov out six to eight weeks after undergoing ‘successful’ wrist surgery

    Chicago Blackhawks' Artem Anisimov tries to handle a rebound from Montreal Canadiens goalie Mike Condon during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016, in Montreal. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via AP)
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    Artem Anisimov on Tuesday underwent successful surgery on his injured right wrist, the Chicago Blackhawks announced.

    “We anticipate his return to full hockey activities in approximately six to eight weeks,” said team physician Dr. Michael Terry in a statement.

    The news comes eight days after the Blackhawks were ousted in the first round, eliminated in seven games by the St. Louis Blues.

    Acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets in last summer’s blockbuster deal for Brandon Saad, the 27-year-old Anisimov enjoyed the second 20-goal season of his career and fell just two points shy of his previous career best of 44 when he was with the New York Rangers.

    He played the bulk of this season on a line with two highly skilled players in Patrick Kane, the league-leader in points with 106, and Artemi Panarin, named as a Calder Trophy finalist on Monday.

    In March, Anisimov was named to Russia’s preliminary roster for the upcoming World Cup of Hockey, although the recovery schedule outlined above should allow plenty of time for Anisimov to be physically ready for the tournament when it begins in September.

    Related: Three major challenges facing the Chicago Blackhawks, who won’t be champs in 2016