With the loss to St. Louis after leading 2-0 going into the third period, many fans and critics were set to believe that the season is beginning to fall off its peak. Since the break, the Coyotes started 0-2-1 without an offensive spark, sloppy defense, and frustrated personnel.
“We played so well for 40 minutes. We were dominant, doing all the right things,” forward Paul Bissonnette said. “We just got away from it and it’s kind of been the story for the last few months here. We just had to keep making predictable plays and stay on the right side of the puck. As boring as the game is when you play like that, it’s just the way it works for us.”
Then, something unimaginable happened.
Just a few points out of the final wild card spot in the Western Conference, Phoenix had to do something as the trade deadline approached. The Washington Capitals were able to work with the Coyotes, sending forwards Martin Erat and John Mitchell for forward Chris Brown, defenseman Rostislav Klesla, and a fourth round draft pick in 2015. The Coyotes were able to send away two players who had little action on the ice in the NHL this season for a player who can add a lot more talent and help out their front line. Erat, who originally played for the Nashville Predators, has 165 goals and 508 points in 785 career NHL regular season games.
“We’ve been looking at Martin for a long, long time,” Coyotes general manager Don Maloney said. “He was a terrific player in Nashville, went to Washington and it just didn’t work for him there. It reminds me a little of Radim Vrbata when he fit with us, he left us and it didn’t work, he came back and has been a great player for us. We think Martin can thrive in our style, which is very similar to Nashville’s.”
Hours later, the Vancouver Canucks came to the desert to try and add some more misery to the Coyotes season. They came in short handed playing without Daniel Sedin and had lost 9 of their last 10. Antoine Vermette, who was rather hot before going into the Olympic break, was the only goal scorer in a 1-0 victory, putting them just a point behind the Dallas Stars for the final playoff spot.
Vermette has been deadly against the Canucks. Against them in the last nine games he has scored nine times, including a hat trick in a loss in late January. Tuesday’s game was deja-vu, scoring the only goal in another 1-0 victory on January 16.
“I don’t know what it is, scoring against one team, but it’s definitely great timing because we needed those points,” Vermette said. “You try to play hard every night, but for some reason it works out better on the stat sheets against one team.”
Phoenix has done all that they can now in hopes to stay alive through March. Historically the Coyotes are either quiet at the trade deadline or looking to wash away as much of their roster so that they can make room for next year. This isn’t the year to mess around with trying to win a fan base that has not been around. In a season like this now looking at the schedule becomes routine with a three game road trip to the Atlantic. After a date with Montreal at home, playoff contenders Washington and the Tampa Bay Lightning are next, while the Florida Panthers finish off the helm. The Coyotes say they only need to win around two-thirds of their games, but it certainly helps when you have support from all ends.
“At this time of year, you want to add pieces that are going to help your team win,” goalie Mike Smith said. “At the expense of losing strong connections from your team anything you can do to add a piece helps. I played with [Erat] growing up and after knowing him he is definitely going to help our team.”
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Phoenix also traded minor leaguers David Rundblad and Mathieu Brisebois to the Chicago Blackhawks for a 2014 second round draft pick.