Coyotes alternate captain/defenseman Ed Jovanovski is returning to the lineup Saturday night after being forced to sit out games against San Jose and New Jersey this week because of an NHL suspension.
Jovo received the two-game suspension, his second of the season, for elbowing John Tavares of the New York Islanders last Saturday.
I caught up with Jovo after Friday’s practice and asked him to share some thoughts on getting back in the lineup vs. Minnesota.
“It’s not fun missing games and you want to be there for your teammates, but it’s one of those situations where I had to deal with the consequences and that’s about it,” he said.
Some observers inside the Coyotes dressing room believe – and I agree with them – the fact that it was Tavares, the No. 1 pick in last year’s NHL Entry Draft, who received Jovo’s hit influenced the suspension.
Jovo also was suspended for two games for a hit he delivered on Minnesota’s Andrew Ebbett on Dec. 7.
Here’s Jovo’s take on moving forward:
“You’ve got to keep your arms down and keep your elbows tucked in. I understand what the league is doing, cracking down on head shots... That’s important, but I’ve always been a physical guy and I’ve played clean my whole career. Its’ kind of the first time ever I’ve faced this so I’m itching to get back.”
Forward Scottie Upshall told me he’s glad Jovo’s suspension is over. Just his presence on the ice, Upshall said, gives the Coyotes an advantage.
“I think we’re a totally different team with Jovo in the lineup,” Upshall said. “We’ve missed him the last couple games. They were tough games and that’s when Jovo is at his best. He’s a physical presence for us and he’s a good skater and makes great plays. When the other team sees him in the lineup on the back end they know it’s going to be a battle out there.”
I asked Head Coach Dave Tippett for his take on Jovo’s suspensions.
“We want to be a disciplined club and he’s one of our leaders,” Tippett said. “…It’s a fine line, but the one thing you can’t forget is that for Jovo to be the best player that he can be he has to be a very competitive player. That ‘s who he is. If we back him off to the point where he’s scared to hit somebody, we’re not going to get the player we need.”
Incidentally, I asked Tippett if he’d ever been suspended during his playing career. He said yes, but not by the NHL.
“I got suspended once in college,” he said.
“Why?” I asked.
“For fighting during warm-ups, I think. We used to have some good brawls. It was old-time hockey back then.”
The coaching staff experimented with a few new lines at Friday’s practice, although there are no guarantees the new lines will be utilized vs. Minnesota.
Captain Shane Doan was skating with Vernon Fiddler and Daniel Winnik, and Lauri Korpikoski was skating on a line with Upshall and Matthew Lombardi.
“He’s working hard but there’s not a ton happening for him right now,” Tippett said about Doan, who hasn’t notched a point in the past four games. “We’ve got to continue to push that.”