Losers in two of their last three games and clinging to eighth in the Western Conference, the Phoenix Coyotes will get a boost on Thursday when captain Shane Doan returns to face the Sharks.
Doan has completed his three-game suspension for elbowing Dallas’ Jamie Benn on Mar. 20. The Coyotes were victorious in their first game sans-captain — defeating Colorado 3-2 — before losing in a shootout to San Jose, then getting smoked 4-0 in St. Louis.
The 35-year-old is keen to get back in the lineup.
“Obviously you never want to be in the position I’m in right now with eight games to go and miss those three,” Doan told the Arizona Republic. “But it is what it is. It’s over. Now I have to get ready to go.”
How Doan reacts to the suspension remains to be seen. It’s the second three-game banishment of his career — he was tagged last season for hitting Anaheim’s Dan Sexton in the head — and with Phoenix embroiled in a playoff chase, things figure to be intense and extremely physical.
So, can Doan play that style of game without going over the edge?
Phoenix head coach Dave Tippett thinks he can.
“He obviously has to be aware of how he’s hitting people and where he’s hitting people, and hopefully him missing a couple games will tweak that memory in him,” Tippett said. “But he still has to be a hard player. He’s not going to be the same player if he tip-toes around out there. I certainly don’t expect him to do that.”
Doan is second on the Coyotes in hits (198, 22nd in the NHL) and third in goals (21). That mix of skill and physicality is his trademark, and Phoenix could use a bit of both — the ‘Yotes have only scored 12 times in the last six games and looked lethargic in Sunday’s loss to the Blues.
By just about any measure, Monday’s been lousy to Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy.
He was pulled with a few minutes remaining in the first period after Chicago Blackhawks built a 3-1 lead, scoring those three goals on just eight shots on net.
You could summarize Vasilevskiy’s awful start by those numbers, or by how rare the 3-1 goal was for the scorer.
Tomas Jurco failed to score a goal or an assist in 16 games with the Red Wings, then went pointless in nine more games with Chicago before finally scoring his first goal of the season on Monday.
Now, Jon Cooper didn’t pull Vasilevskiy because Jurco scored that tally. Still, it rubs a little extra salt in his wounds all things considered.
Here’s the Jurco goal:
Patrick Kane‘s 2-1 goal might have hurt the most, actually, as it quickly dissolved a tying tally by Ondrej Palat:
Update: The Lightning decided to put Vasilevskiy back in net to begin the second period. Interesting.
The bad news is that Artem Anisimov seems likely to miss all – or at least most – of the regular season for the Chicago Blackhawks with his lower-body injury.
The good? Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville believes that Anisimov will be ready once the playoffs swing into motion, as the Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus reports.
Anisimov was hurt when he got tangled up with Canadiens forward Alex Radulov on March 14:
The Blackhawks have been filling Anisimov’s typical spot alongside Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin with Ryan Hartman and Nick Schmaltz lately. There have been flashes of brilliance with Schmaltz, but Chicago would probably feel most confident with Anisimov back in his familiar place.
Chicago’s Central lead is pretty secure over the Minnesota Wild at the moment, which likely reduces motivation to rush Anisimov back before he’s truly ready. The Blackhawks close out their regular season on April 8, so there’s still time for him to heal up.
The Anaheim Ducks are flying high – er, waddling with some swagger? – right now thanks to Jonathan Bernier‘s somewhat shocking turnaround, but the pending return of John Gibson is promising.
(Especially since the Ducks will likely want him to shake off some rust before the playoffs begin.)
While it’s not clear if he’s exactly 100 percent healthy just yet, the Ducks sending Jhonas Enroth back to the AHL is a strong sign that Gibson is close.
Enroth actually never got a shot to start for the Ducks, as his last NHL appearance came on Nov. 30, closing off his ill-fated run with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Considering that Enroth was once a fairly hot commodity as at least a promising backup, it will be interesting to see how his 2017-18 season pans out. Will he get more or less of a chance than he received this season?
Bernier, meanwhile, is richly rewarding the Ducks for sticking with him.
He’s provided them with a Vezina-caliber March: 9-1-1, 1.71 GAA and .943 save percentage with one shutout. You almost wonder if there’s at least some potential for a goalie controversy if Gibson stumbles whenever he gets back into action … but hey, having two good goalies to choose from is better than none.
(Which was the scenario that must have scared the Ducks when Gibson got hurt in the first place.)
The Tampa Bay Lightning almost certainly haven’t faced the Chicago Blackhawks in a game this important since the two teams were vying for a Stanley Cup.
While the Blackhawks have already punched their ticket to the postseason and are merely trying to pad their lead in the Central Division, the Bolts are fighting for their playoff lives. At the moment, they rank three points behind the Boston Bruins for the final spot in the East. With a game in hand, they can make up a lot of ground tonight.
With all of that in mind, it should be an entertaining contest. You can check it out on NBCSN, watch online or via the NBC Sports App.
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