The Phoenix Coyotes have been leading the standings in the NHL Western Conference's Pacific Division and right forward Radim Vrbata has played no small role in that success.
Vrbata had his team-leading 14th goal of the season in Phoenix's 5-2 loss to the Detroit Red Wings. With 14 goals and 11 points, Vrbata has 25 points to tie for the team scoring leadership with Ray Whitney, who has 10 goals and 15 assists.
Whitney had an assist in the game, in which the Coyotes struggled in falling behind 5-0 in the first period.
But the Coyotes are still at 15-10-3 with 33 points. They won two straight road games prior to the loss to the Red Wings.
"We wanted to have a good trip and we won in Chicago and we won in Nashville," Vrbata said. "This was a good road trip. We are doing OK."
Vrbata, a native of Mlada Boleslav, Czechoslovakia, in his 10th NHL season and his fourth with Phoenix. He was acquired from Tampa Bay for Todd Fedoruk and David Hale in July 2009. He was drafted by Colorado as the 10th choice in the seventh round and 212th overall in the 1999 entry draft.
So far this season, Vrbata has six multipoint games.
"Of course, you want to score as much as you can," Vrbata said. "We try to play the same every game. Sometimes you have more luck than you do at other times. You want to help your team as much as you can."
Last season, he scored 19 goals while adding 29 assists for 48 points in 76 games. He led the team in shots on goal with 240 and was second on the squad in power play goals with 10. In April, Vrbata played in his 600th NHL game.
Thursday's performance against the Red Wings wasn't one of Phoenix's better nights.
"We came out flat and they scored a couple of early goals," Vrbata said. "We couldn't stop it. I've played against the Red Wings a couple of times. This has happened to me a couple of times. They're a team that if you come out flat like that they will take advantage of it and they did. They scored five goals and the game was over."
"Tonight, we weren't ready for the first period," Whitney said. "If you're not ready at any given time in a league with parity like this one has, you'll see yourself at the wrong end of a whuppin'. We'll bounce back."
The Coyotes are battling Dallas, Los Angeles and San Jose for the lead in the Pacific Division and can't overlook last-place Anaheim.
"Every game is so important and at the end, every point will count," Vrbata said. "When you look at our division, the Western Conference the last few years, you need every point in the end."
But with the personnel on his team, Vrbata likes the Coyotes' title chances.
"We have a lot of talent, but it's a long season and you have ups and downs," he said. "You have to keep going as much as you can."
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