The Coyotes are expecting to be without center Steven Reinprecht for four to eight weeks because of a shoulder injury he suffered in Thursday night’s loss at San Jose.
“It’s tough…” Coyotes Head Coach Gretzky said after Friday’s practice. “…He's a consummate team player as far as his work ethic goes, and he has been great with our young kids. Defensively, he has been sound as far as face-offs and killing penalties. It's going to be a big hole for us.”
Reinprecht separated a shoulder during his second shift of Thursday’s game and did not play after that. He ranks fourth on the team with 28 points (nine goals, 19 assists) and first in plus/minus ratio at plus-9.
Captain Shane Doan
, one of Reinprecht’s best friends, knows his presence will be missed in the dressing room.
“'Rhino' is one of those guys that gets so well along with everyone in our room and everyone likes him so much,” said Doan, who leads the Coyotes with 48 points in 50 games. “On top of that, he is such a great hockey player and to not have him in this room is awful.”
Reinprecht was on track for one of his best seasons with the Coyotes since joining the team during the 2005-06 season.
“I think the last 30 games he has played are as good as I have ever seen him play," Gretzky said.”
With the loss of forward Peter Mueller, who was injured in Tuesday night’s game against Anaheim, the Coyotes are without two of their top-six forwards. Mueller is under the watchful eye of doctors, who have to deem him clear before he participates in any activities due to strict NHL rules regarding concussions.
“It puts pressure on everyone else,” Doan said. “It puts pressure on the young guys that have been getting opportunities and (they) have to step up. It puts pressure on the veteran guys that are going to be counted on a little more and have to contribute.”
Forward Todd Fedoruk also knows others players are going to have to step up now.
He is such a great hockey player and to not have him in this room is awful.” - Shane Doan
“It's part of hockey,” Fedoruk said. “You lose guys all year. This year, with injuries, we have been fortunate. Usually there are more. To lose 'Rhino' right now is a big thing."
The Coyotes have lost just 42 man games to injury this season, which ranks near the bottom of the league. Phoenix will recall a player from San Antonio before Saturday’s game.
In other news, Gretzky said forward Viktor Tikhonov
(upper body injury) would not play Saturday vs. Buffalo. There is no return date yet set for Tikhonov, who continues to wear the no-contact sweater at practices.