GLENDALE, Ariz. -- For the first time since a hit on the Chicago Blackhawks' Marian Hossa in last year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, Raffi Torres will be back on the ice for the Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday.
Following that hit, Torres was suspended for the first eight games of this season along with 13 playoff games. Now that he's back in the lineup, his energy will be a welcome addition to a Phoenix team that has limped to a 2-4-2 start.
“I'm excited (to play), it's been quite a long time,” Torres said. “I just want to be out there helping the boys out.”
Torres knows that, as a repeat offender when it comes to suspensions, he needs to alter his game. Coach Dave Tippett has spent extended time reviewing film with the wing, who scored 15 goals last season. The goal of these video sessions is to emphasize how Torres can maintain his aggressive edge while curbing the type of hits that cause controversy.
“A bunch (of the video clips) were me running out of position to make a big hit. It's got to be non-existent this year. I can't be running out of position, giving up my man in order to throw a big hit," Torres said. "(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 isn't the only player returning to the Coyotes lineup this week. Both goalie Mike Smith and center Martin Hanzal returned for Friday’s shootout loss at the Dallas Stars and winger Steve Sullivan and defenseman Rostislav Klelsa could be close to joining them.
The Coyotes certainly could use a win against a Pacific Division team. They are 0-3-1 in their division, posting losing records against the Stars (0-1-1), Los Angeles Kings (0-1-0) and San Jose Sharks (0-1-0). To get that first division win, they'll likely rely on Radim Vrbata, who has scored all three of his goals this year against the Stars.
Here is the Coyotes' projected lineup:
Oliver Ekman Larsson – Zbynek Michalek