Copper & Blue: Have the Coyotes just matured or has Dave Tippett been this much of an influence?
Odin Mercer: Some of both options. It's hard not to mature from the team we were last year. A lot of the players that were playing big minutes for us last year are now able to see some time in the minors, where maybe they should have started. Mikkel Boedker, Kyle Turris and Viktor Tikhonov have been down there all year (with a game or two for Boedker on the big team) Last year those guys were seeing 2nd line time. We also added some veteran support in the form of Jim Vandermeer, Adrian Aucoin and Robert Lang along with Vernon Fiddler and Radim Vrbata. Tippett has brought in a system that works for the team we have. We don't have a huge goal scorer, so his focus has been to work hard on the defensive end of things and being responsible with the puck. So far it's worked pretty well and worked even better when 3 of our normal top 6 DMen weren't out.
Copper & Blue: Scottie Upshall, Martin Hanzal and Peter Mueller are all restricted free agents this summer. Which one is going to be the toughest to sign?
Odin Mercer: I don't think any of them will be the biggest issue in terms of wanting to sign with the team. If Upshall keeps playing the way he has he'll probably get a bigger deal as he was already resigned as an RFA this past summer. Hanzal will get a good deal as while he's not a scorer a lot of the time, he's been great at shutting down the other team's top lines. Mueller could be iffy. He hasn't done a lot in this season, or last to command a ton of money. I think he'll get signed, but likely for a smaller, short term deal like Upshall got last summer to give him a chance to prove that he deserves a bigger payday.
Copper & Blue: Which unsung guy should Oiler fans pay attention to tonight and why?
Odin Mercer: Vernon Fiddler. He's been great for us so far this season doing all the little things that help win games. He wins the small battles for the puck and has been great in the faceoff circle. On the PK he'll often go on the ice for the initial defensive zone faceoff and once the puck is cleared, comes of for Martin Hanzal. He's the guy that you want taking those crucial ones. He may not got the goals, but he certainly helps us win.