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.