Raffi Torres is eligible to return to the Phoenix Coyotes lineup on Saturday against Dallas — and when he does, he vows to be a different player.
“[I’m] just focusing on instead of going for the big hit, just kind of rubbing guys out and trying to take the puck at the same time,” Torres explained. “[Head coach Dave Tippett] showed me a bunch of clips where I was thinking puck first and hit second and it worked out, where I got a lot of scoring chances out of it.
“It’s just a matter of me controlling my emotions throughout the game.”
Torres has one game left to serve on the 21-game suspension — appealed down from 25 games originally — levied after his massive hit on Chicago’s Marian Hossa during last spring’s Western Conference semifinal.
The suspension was a combination of the severity/ferocity of the hit on Hossa, and Torres’ reputation as a repeat offender. He’d been tagged on multiple occasions for dangerous hits — many to the heads of opposing players.
Prior to the Hossa suspension, Torres was dinged four games in 2011 for a hit to the head of Edmonton’s Jordan Eberle (as a member of the Canucks) and two games last season for charging Minnesota Wild defenceman Nate Prosser.
Much like Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke — who was suspended 10 games and the entire opening playoff round in 2011 for a nasty hit on Ryan McDonagh — Torres says a re-evaluation of his game and plenty of video study have helped him become a safer, more aware player.
“Me and Tip sat down and went over that kind of stuff, there might be a little bit more of a magnifying glass on you for the first couple of games, so there’s no need to go out there running around like we’ve talked about,” Torres said. “Just go out there and play the game, try to put myself in some good opportunities to score some goals and make some plays.”