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by Dave Vest / Arizona Coyotes
ANAHEIM – The Coyotes won Thursday’s game over Chicago, but they lost another key defenseman/alternate captain in the process.

Ed Jovanovski, who co-leads the team with 13 points, suffered a lower-body injury in the third period and is likely to miss a few games.

Ed Jovanovski
Having written that, I can report that Jovanovski did fly with the team here Friday for Saturday night’s game against the Ducks at the Honda Center. Whether he plays or not remains to be seen. The Coyotes recalled defenseman Shaun Heshka from the AHL on Friday to replace Jovanovski.

Before the flight, I spoke to Jovanovski about his injury.

"It's frustrating but it's part of the game," he said. "I've been pretty fortunate the past few years to play full seasons ... but if you play hard sometimes things happen. That's the case here."

On Wednesday, Coyotes defenseman Zbynek Michalek also suffered a lower-body injury. His injury is more serious than Jovanovski’s; Michalek is on the injured-reserve list and considered “week-to-week” whereas Jovanovski is considered “day-to-day.”

“We certainly will miss ‘Z’ and ‘Jovo’ but it’s certainly no excuse for not winning,” Head Coach Dave Tippett said after Friday’s practice. “We expect the players that will come in and play will play well. Injuries happen to everybody. We just have to deal with them. We‘ll have to make sure we have a strong pack mentality back there and weather through it. One of the ways you overcome (injuries) is with a strong team concept.”

Defenseman David Schlemko has two assists in four NHL games.
Defenseman David Schlemko played well in his first game with the Coyotes this season on Thursday, and impressed the coaches and teammates. Heshka likely will get his chance Saturday night.

Losing Michalek and Jovanovski also is significant because they both are alternate captains. Forward Vernon Fiddler wore Michalek’s ‘A’ on Thursday and defenseman Adrian Aucoin will wear the ‘A’ in place of Jovanovski on Saturday.

I asked Tippett why he chose them and what he looks for in alternate captains.

His reply: “You look for people who are strong in the room and with strong voices. Fiddler is the kind of player who exemplifies how gritty and determined our team wants to play like. Adrian Aucoin is just a strong veteran leadership presence.”

Heshka was riding on a bus from Peoria (Ill.) to Chicago with his San Antonio Rampage teammates on Thursday night when he received the phone call from the Coyotes telling him to get to Phoenix ASAP. He practiced with the team Friday at the Alltel Ice Den in Scottsdale.

Heshka, 24, has never played in an NHL game.

Coyotes defenseman Shaun Heshka (right) played against Anaheim in a preseason game.
“Hopefully the emotion doesn’t get to me too much,” Heshka said when I asked him about making his NHL debut. “I think if I get out there and get comfortable with the way things are going it’ll be fine.”

Heshka is an offensive-minded defenseman who likes to jump into the rush and make plays.

He said he might temper that offensive enthusiasm in his first NHL game.

“For me in my first game, I think I need to be solid defensively,” he said. “I know I’m not going to be playing a lot of minutes so being solid defensively is key for me.”

Defenseman Kurt Sauer, who hasn’t played since the season opener on Oct. 3, accompanied the team here.

I had a chance to interview Sauer about the upper-body injury he suffered in the preseason and couldn’t play through. Click here to listen.

Center Martin Hanzal continues to wow Tippett. Considering how hard Hanzal works defensively on the other team’s top players, I asked Tippett if the offensive production Hanzal contributes is simply icing on the cake.

“No,” Tippett said. “I expect him to be a strong two-way player. That’s what is going to make him an excellent player. He has the ability to play against top people but he has the ability to score, too. When you’ve got a guy who’s that size (6-foot-6, 228 pounds) and is a good skater, that’s a valuable, valuable player."

FYI, there will be no local TV coverage of Saturday’s game. I invite you to listen to the game on XTRA Sports 910 and then visit for exclusive post-game coverage including highlights, interviews, photos, stats and more.

Thanks for reading.


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