It wasn't a new philosophy — it's actually been the company line for the past five years — but the Coyotes have finally started to execute the tight, defensive style that was identified as their calling card before the season began.

Their past three games have all been one-goal contests with five or fewer combined goals. Two of the three resulted in wins, suggesting that even with minimal turnover the Coyotes needed a transition period to re-assemble all the pieces.

"I mean you don't want there to be," goalie Mike Smith said. "But I think from year to year, it seems like there's some growing pains along the way, whether it's the start of the season. Some teams go through it in different parts of the season. But the most important part is that you learn along the way and you get better."

With four Western Conference games on tap, starting tonight when they host the Stars before three straight road games against Pacific Division opponents, the Coyotes couldn't have picked a better time to fall back into their defensive shell. Low-scoring games certainly seem more conducive to their success and for some of the newbies, it's now clear what they have to contribute for that to be a reality.

"From a personal standpoint, I definitely feel like I'm at a point now where I know what's expected of me and what I need to be doing every single night and I have the confidence to bring that every day," center Joe Vitale said. "I can only sense it as a team — I can't guarantee it — but I sense it as a team that we're on the same page, that this is what we need to do every single night. It's been indicative, obviously, of the scoreboard how we've been hanging in games against tough teams."

A cohesive unit is vital but perhaps that's not the only reason for the turnaround. After being tethered to a league-worst goals-against average for weeks, the Coyotes have started to make their climb up into respectable territory. Currently, they sit 26th (3.29) and that statistic is influenced greatly by one player.