Phoenix Coyotes Coach Bob Francis had seen enough.

He endured an 0-3 home start, the team's first winless October in the desert. Francis trudged his club through a stretch in which nine of its first 12 games were on the road, including two trips to the East, and a half-dozen of his players were sidelined with injuries.

And he watched his club rack up penalty upon penalty to rank third in the league with an average of 24.3 minutes per game and first in total minutes through 12 games.

After the Coyotes ended the run with a 6-2 loss in Philadelphia on Thursday, falling to 4-7-0-1 overall, Francis wasn't going to hold back anymore. He didn't want to talk about his players taking penalties, his anger and frustration was instead directed toward those who call them.

"If you want to talk about discipline, talk to the supervisor," Francis said of the officiating. "They have to be accountable, too."

Francis tried to hold his tongue, but he knew he might have already said too much. "I'll probably get slapped for that," he said.

The Coyotes were down two men just 1 minute 15 seconds into the Philadelphia game on simultaneous calls -- one on Ossi Vaananen and another on Francis for trying to state his case on why he didn't agree with the call.

Phoenix killed off one of the two penalties, but allowed one goal. Later in the period, the Coyotes were down two men again but escaped without damage.

In the second period, the Coyotes took all three of their penalties at 10:49, but they were all called against Darcy Hordichuk, who collided with referee Mark Faucette after the Flyers got even at 2.

Francis contended that Faucette and Hordichuk didn't see each other, and Faucette turned into Hordichuk.

The officials didn't agree.

Hordichuk was ejected and was given 22 penalty minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct, which carried two misconduct charges. "I hope they look at the tape," Francis said. "There was no intention of Darcy to hit Mark Faucette."

Yzerman Coming Along

Injured Detroit Red Wings captain Steve Yzerman skated Tuesday for the first time since offseason knee surgery.

Yzerman, 37, had knee surgery for the third time in two years on Aug. 2. He took it easy his initial time back on the ice, skating for about 15 minutes.

"I didn't really do a whole lot," Yzerman said. "I didn't even break a sweat, just skated. Just put my equipment on basically so it wasn't really much of a test of anything."

He did, however, feel well enough to skate again on Wednesday.

During the offseason, estimates of a January or February return were made. Yzerman said he would wait until the pain in his right knee was gone before coming back. And if the hurt didn't go away, then maybe he would.

He's not revealing any timetable now.

"Just skate a little bit and see how I feel. If I feel good, I'll skate more," he said. "I don't really have a set schedule or set plan.

"Nothing's really set. Pretty simple, really. Just kind of see how I react."

Yzerman had a realignment procedure on his knee rather than reconstruction. That was completed after Yzerman helped lead Detroit to its third Stanley Cup in six seasons.

Lofty Goalies

Those who thought the first two weeks that Tampa Bay and Minnesota put together were aberrations must have been really surprised when the season's first calendar month ended.

Both teams, used to being on the bottom of the standings, are on the top of their respective conferences.

The Lightning has ridden the stellar goaltending of Nikolai Khabibulin to a 7-1-2 start. He has been perfect at 7-0-2. The club's only loss came when backup Kevin Hodson made his only appearance this season.

Manny Fernandez has backstopped the Wild's amazing start that hit 8-1-2 Thursday night with a 2-1 overtime win over supposed Western Conference contender San Jose. Conversely, the Sharks fell to 3-6-0-1.

Fernandez took a well-deserved night off against the Sharks, leaving the work to backup Dwayne Roloson. Fernandez started 6-0 this season, his fourth full NHL season and third with the Wild, with a .949 save percentage, and a 1.48 goals against average.

The Wild didn't win its eighth game last season until Nov. 21 when it also beat the Sharks. Minnesota finished 26-35-12-9 and in last place in the Northwest Division, 26 points behind champion Colorado.

"I don't think we've done anything different," Fernandez said. "I think, maybe overall, we came here with a different mind-set. . . . We came to camp ready to work."

Tampa Bay took until Nov. 20 to earn win No. 7 last season. The Lightning was only 27-40-11-4 last season, good for third place in the Southeast Division.

Rock the Vote

As political campaigns wrap up this weekend heading into Election Day on Tuesday, the NHL is just starting its voting season. Balloting for the 2003 All-Star Game began Friday and will last until New Year's Eve.

Eric Desjardins's shot gets past Coyotes' Brian Boucher in a 6-2 loss to Flyers that dropped Phoenix's record to 4-7-0-1, a streak that has not left Coach Bob Francis speechless.