Raffi Torres' return to the ice has been 21 games -- and roughly nine and a half months -- in the making.
The Coyotes' left wing has not played for the team since Game 3 of the first round of the playoffs last year, after which he was suspended by the NHL for a brutal hit laid on Chicago Blackhawks right wing Marian Hossa.
The suspension was originally 25 games, but trimmed down to 21. And then the lockout happened, so Torres' return took a bit longer than anticipated.
He'll be eligible to play Saturday when the Coyotes host the Dallas Stars.
"I'm excited, it's been quite a long time," Torres said after practice Thursday. "I just want to be out there helping the boys out."
Torres said he thinks he can help in ways other than just being a hard-hitter, and while that may be what he's known for, the 31-year-old has tallied seven seasons with more than 20 points.
The hope is he'll work on being a complete player this season, and at 2-4-1, the Coyotes could certainly use the help.
"We went over a bunch of clips," Torres said of what he's learned. "A bunch were me running out of position to make a big hit.
"It's gotta be non-existent this year, I can't be running out of position, giving up my man in order to throw a big hit."
That will be important, as Torres knows the league may be watching him a little closer now as he comes off the suspension.
"Me and [Coach Dave Tippett] sat down and we went over that kind of stuff," Torres said, noting it comes back to not trying to always dish out big hits. "Just kind of go out there and play the game; try and put myself in some good opportunities to score some goals and make some plays."