GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Phoenix Coyotes’ three-game point streak was snapped Saturday in a 3-1 defeat at the hands of the Carolina Hurricanes, but the team’s greatest loss continues to be off the ice.
While Phoenix has recorded five points in its last four contests, something just seems to be missing. Better put, someone seems to be missing.
Captain Shane Doan remained out of Dave Tippett’s lineup Saturday night against the Hurricanes, extending an absence that dates back to Phoenix’s 3-2 overtime loss at Vancouver back on Dec. 6.
The official ruling continues to be that he’s suffering from an undisclosed illness, but Doan, who is the team’s leading scorer with 23 points (12 goals and 11 assists), has never made a habit of missing games — regardless of the injury, time of year or opponent. In fact, in five of the last six seasons, the 37-year-old right winger has never missed more than three games in a campaign.
So to put all the speculation to rest, Doan finally spoke out about his condition Saturday.
“I talked to [team trainer] Jason Serbus before the Edmonton game a little bit and mentioned I wasn’t feeling great,” said Doan. “Obviously, we played a back-to-back, so I played the next night against Calgary. Got to Vancouver and I couldn’t play. That was really when it got to the point where I missed that first game. I just wasn’t feeling good.
“The doctor in Vancouver helped me out a lot. He kind of got me started on some medicine that can help. That was before the Vancouver game that Friday. We flew back, and I’m kind of trying to let the medicine work and see if I can get feeling a little bit better.”
Doan noted that initially he had exhibited flu-like symptoms such as a high fever, headaches and soreness, but yet a week and change later, the illness itself is still rather vague.
“It would be nice if we could say this is what it was or this is what it is, but right now I am responding to what they have me on,” said Doan. “I’m feeling better. As you can tell, I’m feeling way better. I was not feeling too hot for a few days, but I’m starting to come around. I’m comfortable and getting out and doing things.”
Although the 17-year veteran’s spirits were up, he was less certain about his short-term future, specifically whether he’d travel with the Coyotes on their upcoming road trip.
“Every day I am feeling better,” said Doan. “That’s the biggest moving forward, that I’m feeling better. I rode the bike for 10 minutes to see how I would respond to that. That was nice, and we’ll see how I do. I want to get back out on the ice, but Serbs and the doctors are just making sure I’m okay.”
For now, the two-time All-Star admitted that he’s at least getting pleasure out of watching his team rise to the occasion without him.
“Obviously, guys are playing well,” said Doan. “So long as we keep winning it makes it way easier [to be out] than if we were losing. When we win, it’s not a big deal.”
In the dressing room, however, it might be a bigger deal than Doan thinks.
“His locker room presence is just huge,” Coyotes forward Paul Bissonnette said. “A couple of years ago when he still hadn’t signed yet, it was hard to picture him not being here. I mean he’s a big body. He eats a lot of minutes and plays hard minutes, too. He wears down defenses and gets to the net.
“Any time you lose a guy like that, it’s kind of killing us a bit.”
Rob Klinkhammer, who is in his second season with Phoenix, summed it up even more succinctly.
“It’s a guy you can’t replace,” said Klinkhammer.
“He’s our leader, captain and does a lot for our team. When he left, he was our leading scorer and still is. He plays pretty well at both ends of the rink and does so much for this room. But we can’t use that as an excuse. Guys get injured. Guys go down.”
While Doan wouldn’t commit one way or the other as to if he’d joined the Coyotes on their four-game swing through eastern Canada and upstate New York, head coach Dave Tippett said that decision would be made after Sunday’s practice.