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'Yotes Notes: Hanzal Impresses in Return to Lineup

by Dave Vest / Arizona Coyotes

GLENDALE -- Coyotes center Martin Hanzal returned to the lineup on Monday night vs. Los Angeles after missing seven games because of a lower-body injury. He played 17:04, notched an assist, delivered three hits and won nine of 14 face-offs.

Among the Coyotes forwards, only Antoine Vermette and Lauri Korpikoski played more than Hanzal in Monday’s 4-3 win.

"I was very pleasantly surprised," Head Coach Dave Tippett said. "For missing as much time as he had, he came in and was a real strong player for us… He's obviously a big piece of the puzzle."

Photo by Getty Images.

Despite missing a total of 13 games because of injury, Hanzal already has set a career-high for points in a season (38), and is on pace to set career-highs for goals in a season and assists in a season.

With Hanzal back in the lineup, and forward Martin Erat nearing return from an upper-body injury, Coyotes fans may soon get their first look at the all Czech line of Hanzal, Erat and Radim Vrbata.

"We think with our Czech players and Czech synergy, we have good luck with the Czech players," General Manager Don Maloney said after acquiring Erat via trade with Washington on March 4. "And with Martin, we're excited to have him. I think Martin is going to certainly help us."

Erat skated with teammates in LA on Monday and he could be back in the lineup as soon as Thursday vs. Florida.

Erat has played with Vrbata for Czech Republic at past IIHF World Championships, and with Hanzal at last month's Olympics.

"He’s very strong in front of the net and the kind of guy I’m used to playing with," Hanzal said after the trade.

The three of them, however, have never played together on a line at any level.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Click here to watch Erat discuss playing with Vrbata and Hanzal for the first time, most likely on Thursday vs. Florida.

Goalie Mike Smith stopped 36 of 39 shots in Monday’s win in his ninth straight start. It almost didn’t happen.

Smith was not feeling well Monday morning and skipped the morning skate. After a midday nap he felt good enough to play.

"I lacked a little bit of energy tonight," Smith said after the game. "But there is no time for feeling down and being sick right now. It was good to get back in there."


• Defenseman Keith Yandle is just five shots on goal shy of reaching 200 for the season. Only two other NHL defensemen have taken more shots than Yandle: Winnipeg’s Dustin Byfuglien (237) and Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson (214).

Yandle's career-high for shots in one season is 199 set in 2010-11.

• With Hanzal now healthy, the Coyotes assigned center Andy Miele back to the American Hockey League. Miele played 15 shifts in each of his three games during his latest recall with the Coyotes, but he did not produce a point. He returns to the AHL as that league's sixth-leading scorer with 57 points in 56 games.

• Thursday’s game between the Coyotes and the Florida Panthers at Arena, originally scheduled to be broadcast on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, has been switched to KMVP 860 AM.

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