Coyotes center Martin Hanzal
has been practicing with teammates this week and is antsy to play again after missing 12 games because of an upper-body injury that he sustained on Dec. 23 against the St. Louis Blues.
Hanzal, who may return to the lineup as soon as tonight vs. Detroit, says it hasn’t been fun watching the last few weeks of action from the sidelines.
“Hockey is my life and I want to play everyday,” said Hanzal, who averaged 18:42 of ice time prior to the injury. “And when you’re not allowed to play or when you cannot play it’s always hard. When you’re just watching your teammates battling hard for a playoff spot it’s frustrating.”
The next game Hanzal plays will be his first as a father. Hanzal’s wife Lenka gave birth to Martin Hanzal
Jr. on Wednesday afternoon in Scottsdale. It has been a busy past few days for Hanzal, who flew back to the Valley from Anaheim to be with Lenka for the birth of their son.
“It’s amazing,” Hanzal said about becoming a father. “It’s my fist baby. It just feels awesome.”
Head Coach Dave Tippett and the rest of the Coyotes are hoping Hanzal also feels awesome when he steps back into the lineup for the first time. Hanzal has been missed by the Coyotes, who have won just three games without him (3-5-4).
“A lot of parts of the game are big parts of the game for him, so we’ll be happy to have him when he comes back, but we have to make sure that he’s ready to go,” Tippett said.
Hanzal is looking forward to contributing right away.
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“It’s hard when you’re just sitting back at home not doing anything,” Hanzal said. “I’d rather be with the team playing and traveling than sitting home on the couch... I’ll do my best because now I’ve had a couple good practices.”
With only a few games left until the NHL All-Star break, Hanzal says this week is an ideal time for him to return to the lineup.
“I can’t wait to be back and helping fight for a playoff spot,” Hanzal said. “…We have three more games (before the break) and it’s going to be huge because everybody is going to get a rest over the All-Star break, so these three games are huge.”
Playing against the Red Wings in his first game back – should he suit up tonight – would be challenging, he said.
“It will be tough but I actually like playing against the Red Wings because of the rivalry the last couple of years in the playoffs and all that,” Hanzal said. “I’m pumped up. It will be a hard game but I will do my best.”