Czeching in: After 13-game absence, Michalek returns tonight

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Good news on Thursday for the Phoenix Coyotes and Czech Olympic team, as Zbynek Michalek announced he’d be returning from a hip injury that’s sidelined him for nearly a month.

Michalek, who aggravated an existing hip issue just 40 seconds into a 3-1 loss to Montreal on Dec. 17, should provide a big boost to the struggling Coyotes, who have lost four straight and host Vancouver tonight.

The defensive defenseman was averaging close to 20 minutes per night prior to getting hurt and, despite missing so much time, still leads the ‘Yotes with 72 blocked shots.

Michalek’s return is also big news for the Czech Olympic team. Ten days ago, he was named as one of the team’s eight defensemen — and one of just five from the NHL — despite being sidelined with injury.

There were no shortage of potential replacements for Michalek in the Czech lineup, as the team elected not to go with a trio of established NHLers: St. Louis’ Roman Polak, Colorado’s Jan Hejda and Detroit’s Jakub Kindl.

In a related move, the Coyotes put defenseman Rostislav Klesla on waivers today.