Coyotes rookie right wing Enver Lisin faced a tough transition last year, and he decided to return to Russia instead of reporting to San Antonio of the American Hockey League. Now 21 and more grounded, Lisin is beginning to hone his skill on the ice, and he says he's playing with more confidence.
"It's easier to play the game to game because the game here is more fun than playing in the AHL," he said. "I'm more confident. It's just like I found it's a very good place to play hockey, everything I need ... I like it here because it's good for my hockey. It's what I need."
Lisin, who was recalled from San Antonio on Dec. 26, entered Saturday night's game against the Anaheim Ducks with two goals and an assist in eight games.
Coach Wayne Gretzky said he's planning on giving the speedy Lisin more time on the power play as the season winds down.
With fewer than 30 NHL games on his resume, Lisin remains a work in progress.
"Enver's mind wanders a little bit, and we talk about this a lot," Gretzky said. "First of all, he's an offensive player, and offensive players just are not as good defensively -- that's a fact-- but we just want him to be responsible when he doesn't have the puck, and he's really come a long way."
Gretzky said Lisin's strength is his forechecking ability, and that he seems to be learning more and more every day.
"Enver's really grown up a lot, and you got to understand, here's a guy who comes from a different culture, a different language , a different system, a different way of life," Gretzky said. "And we really see that last year was a struggle for him, and he ends up going home. He's matured a lot as a hockey player and probably learned a lot off the ice, too, about our culture."
Defying the odds
Rookie left wing Daniel Winnik seemed to be a long shot at best at making the team coming out of training, but the former Phoenix Roadrunner showed from Day 1 that he belonged.
"He's probably the surprise story of our organization," Gretzky said. "He worked his way from basically being in San Antonio to playing a lot of quality minutes on this team, killing penalties, making real nice progression.
"He'll be a better player next year. We're happy and pleased with where he came from and where he is now."