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Coyotes assign Jason Demers to Tucson for conditioning

Arizona Coyotes' Jason Demers (55) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against the New Jersey Devils during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso)

The Arizona Coyotes announced Saturday that defenseman Jason Demers would be sent to to the AHL on a conditioning loan as he makes his way back from injury.

Demers has been out since Nov. 15 with a lower-body injury that threatened the remainder of his season. But his recovery has him healthy enough to get a conditioning loan with the Tucson Roadrunners, a sign that he could be back to the NHL roster well before the end of the regular season.

The NHL’s collective bargaining agreement stipulates that conditioning loans can’t last longer than two weeks.

The right-shot defenseman was regularly on the Coyotes’ top defensive pairing with Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who of late has played with Niklas Hjalmarsson but was matched with other blueliners in Demers’ absence. Demers has 10 seasons of NHL experience with 591 games played, 44 goals and 150 assists.

The 30-year-old’s apparent proximity to returning to the Coyotes’ lineup is welcome news, since the team has been decimated by injuries this season all over the ice. Center Christian Dvorak just played his first game of the season on Tuesday, while the Coyotes will be without center Derek Stepan for four to six weeks after he went down on Thursday.

It’s difficult to say whom Demers will replace in the lineup upon his seemingly-imminent return to the Coyotes. Kevin Connauton has been the scratched defenseman lately, and yet another defenseman will have to come out for Demers to slot in.

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