Endless road to water

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:13 AM ET

PHOENIX -- It's going to be long road back for the rebuilding Phoenix Coyotes, so head coach Wayne Gretzky is careful to measure the progress in baby steps.

"Rome wasn't built in a day, it's going to take some time, but we're really thrilled with the progress we've made,"Gretzky said. "We're getting strong goaltending and our young guys are farther ahead at this time than we would have imagined. We have great leadership in guys like Shane Doan, Derek Morris and Ed Jovanovski."

The Coyotes, who cleaned house in the off-season, are essentially starting from scratch with kids.

They're the youngest team in the NHL at 26.8 years (Edmonton is second at 26.9), with four rookies and a whack of three- and four-year pros.

Needless to say, a Stanley Cup isn't on their To Do list this year.

"Obviously we're in a different situation right now than Dallas or Detroit," said Gretzky.

"But our goal is the same as theirs, we want to make the playoffs.

"That's the first step for this organization."

GRIT HAPPENS

Kyle Brodziak answered his wake up call on the first ring.

With two goals and two assists in his first six games, Brodziak is off to his best start as an NHLer, but he still found himself in the press box last Saturday in Vancouver.

It was a short stay, as Brodziak returned to the lineup last night in Phoenix, well aware of what it's going to take to stay there.

"In a game against a divisional rival you have to play an intense game and I just thought his intensity dropped a little bit (in the first game against Vancouver)," said head coach Craig MacTavish. "Not a lot, but a little bit. That was just a reminder on him. When you're playing that third line role you have to add intensity and consistency in your physical play every night. If it slips a little bit, sometimes (sitting) is a good reminder."

It was on this occasion.

"I have to play a little bit grittier," said Brodziak. "It's something I'm trying to add to my game. I would definitely love to add that part of my game and become an all around player."

Earlier in his career, being made a healthy scratch would have felt like a punch in the confidence, but Brodziak knows it was only designed to get his attention.

"It was to get the point across that it's part of the game that's missing for me," he said.

HAVE A HARTLEY

Bob Hartley and the Edmonton Oilers have never been the best of friends. Their feud dates back to his Colorado days and carried over into Atlanta. But when Hartley got fired, taking a bullet that probably should have been aimed at GM Don Waddell, MacTavish felt bad for the guy.

"Bob and I, since he moved to the other conference, are on speaking terms," said MacTavish, adding members of the coaching fraternity always feel sympathy pains when one of their own is canned.

"It's unfortunate when something like that happens, but it's part of the game and everybody knows it going in."

HE SAID IT

"He's waiting to wake up one day and have it feel a little better, but as of yet it hasn't happened. We have to hang in there for that. Survive it."

-- MacTavish, on waiting for Ethan Moreau to return from a cracked bone in his foot.


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