GLENDALE, Ariz. – For the first time in a month, the Phoenix Coyotes will have their captain in the lineup Saturday. And his team could use the boost as they play host to the Philadelphia Flyers at Jobing.com Arena.
Shane Doan remains Phoenix's leading goal scorer, despite missing the past 12 games with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, an ailment likely brought on by a tick bite. That shows how much the Coyotes, who were 4-3-5 during Doan's absence, missed the presence and firepower of their leader.
The Coyotes didn't have a morning skate so where Doan plays isn't known. But it's a good bet that he can help any line even as he works his way back into playing shape.
"It adds another top player to our group, but we have to be realistic in the expectations [for Saturday]," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. "He's worked awful hard to get back but he's missed a month. We'll see how many minutes he'll play. It will be more about watching that asking."
"Before he went out we had some pretty good rhythm in our lines. Hopefully we can get that back."
Doan was happy after getting clearance from the doctors on Friday and doesn't want to waste any more time.
"I think my energy level is high enough to go. I've done enough that I'm not worried about that," Doan said Friday. "I want to play. We've been involved in so many tight games lately and it's hard to watch when you want to help out.
"I know I'm going to do as much as I can and go as hard as I can. I know I can contribute. I'll be a little rusty, but I've skated five or six times now and that's enough."
Doan's presence comes at a great time, because the Coyotes won't have their top defense pair against the Flyers.
Defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson will miss his first game in three years after being run into the glass but Derek MacKenzie in a 2-0 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday. MacKenzie was suspended for three games by the NHL on Friday.
Tippett said Ekman-Larsson felt better on Friday and the upper-body injury isn't long-term. But Ekman-Larsson is expected to sit tonight along with partner Zbynek Michalek, who has missed two weeks with a hip injury. Michalek skated for 20 minutes on Friday, the most since the injury, and is getting closer to returning.
The Flyers will be without forward Michael Raffl, who sustained an upper body injury in Philadelphia's 2-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche in Denver on Thursday. Forward Matt Read will also sit for a second straight game with an upper-body injury.
Raffl has teamed with Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek for an effective offensive trio this month. In 10 games together they have produced 11 goals and 36 points. Steve Downie will replace Raffl on that line against the Coyotes.
Steve Downie - Claude Giroux - Jakub Voracek
Scott Hartnell - Brayden Schenn - Wayne Simmonds
Zac Rinaldo - Sean Couturier - Vincent Lecavalier
Jay Rosehill - Chris VandeVelde – Adam Hall
Braydon Coburn - Kimmo Timonen
Mark Streit - Nicklas Grossmann
Luke Schenn - Andrej Meszaros
Scratched: Hall Gill,
Injured: Erik Gustafsson (knee), Matt Read (upper body), Michael Raffl (concussion)
Lauri Korpikoski – Martin Hanzal – Radim Vrbata
Shane Doan – Antoine Vermette – Mikkel Boedker
Tim Kennedy – Mike Ribeiro – David Moss
Kyle Chipchura – Jeff Halpern – Rob Klinkhammer
Keith Yandle – Derek Morris
Connor Murphy -- Rostislav Klesla
David Schlemko – Michael Stone
Scratched: David Rundblad, Paul Bissonnette,
Injured: Zbynek Michalek (lower body), Oliver Ekman-Larsson (upper body)