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Off the Ice: Phoenix Coyotes clicking without their captain

Coyotes captain Shane Doan missed his third straight game with an undetermined illness Thursday against the New York Islanders. While the Coyotes didn’t exactly struggle on the ice (they won 6-3), it’s strange to watch a team that looks to Doan when times get tough. Say, nearly blowing a 4-1 lead?

But the team can’t count on Doan’s return anytime soon. He’s been ruled out for the foreseeable future. By the sound of it, head coach Dave Tippett is concerned that he could be without his captain for an extended period of time.

So what are the Coyotes to do? Clearly the NHL season doesn’t stop because someone is sick or hurt, even if they are the team’s leading scorer. After the win Thursday, Tippett said his team is always ready to cover for someone who’s out for any reason.

“Every guy in there feels a responsibility,” he said. “They have to chip in.”

And chip in they have. Since losing Doan, the Coyotes are 2-0-1. That doesn’t seem like a feat, but considering they dropped both Vancouver and Colorado, two of the better Western Conference teams this season, on the road without their captain and the numbers get a little more important.

“We’ve been doing it together,” center Mike Ribeiro said after Thursday’s win. “I think everyone is chipping in.”

But what if the Coyotes are without Doan for an extended period of time? It’s not like they haven’t dealt with injuries this year. Defenseman Zbynek Michalek, defenseman Derek Morris and forward Lauri Korpikoski have all missed a significant amount of time with others picking up little issues along the way.

“Obviously, Doaner is our leading scorer but that just means someone else has to try and score the goals,” forward Mikkel Boedker said Thursday, who netted himself two in the win.

The biggest issue for a Doan-less Coyotes is leadership. He’s the heart and soul of the team, the guy everyone relies on to give the team the extra boost when things don’t go its way.

However a Coyotes team effort will yield a team result without their talisman. Since Doan got sick, center Antoine Vermette was given the extra assistant captain slot, a role he has filled nicely. In his last three, Vermette has posted 3-1-4 and won 66 percent of his faceoffs. The other Coyotes assistant captains, Keith Yandle (1-2-3 in his last three games) and Martin Hanzal (60 percent of faceoffs won) have also picked up the slack. If that doesn’t make up for the loss of your leading scorer, I’m not sure what else does.

While the Coyotes want their captain back ASAP, he couldn’t have picked a better time to get sick. The team will play five straight against Eastern Conference teams, albeit four of those on the road. However, Phoenix is 8-1-1 against the conference this season and this next spell should be a bit easier without a Western Conference opponent.

Clearly, whatever Doan has going on is pretty bad. I can’t think of the last time I heard of a hockey player missing an extended period of time because he was sick. But with the way his squad is playing, he can get some rest.

So go ahead, Doaner. Sit back, catch some daytime TV and know that the Coyotes are still clicking without their captain. See you when you’re back on your skates.