After a month-long absence from the ice due to Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Phoenix Coyotes captain Shane Doan will be a bystander no longer.
Doan, who has missed the Coyotes’ last 12 games (4-3-5) due to the illness which is generally transmitted by a tick bite, has been cleared to play by team doctors and will make his return to the ice Saturday night against the visiting Philadelphia Flyers.
“I’ve been in the league 30 years, and I’ve never had a case of Rocky Mountain fever interrupt a player’s play,” Coyotes head coach said on Arizona Sports 620’s Bickley with Marotta Friday. “We were in uncharted waters, but Doaner has worked really hard this week and the doctors gave him the go-ahead yesterday. We might as well get him playing.”
While the team hasn’t lost any ground in the Western Conference standings, the 37-year-old’s return to the lineup couldn’t come soon enough, as evidenced by the Coyotes’ recent play — 2-3-4 in their last nine games.
Coincidence? Tippett doesn’t seem to think so.
“There’s two sides to [his absence],” said Tippett. “One is the on-ice part, what you get out of him. He’s one of our top players. He creates chances. He’s a bull in a China shop out there. He’s just a hard guy to play against. So there’s the on-ice part of it.
“And then the off-ice part of it is the leadership he brings in our dressing room. From a coach’s standpoint, having a guy like that in your locker room just is invaluable because you know the messages he’s sending in there goes right to the whole group. He has so much respect in there. There’s two sides there, and we certainly missed both sides. We missed his leadership and his on-ice presence, because he’s one of our best players.”
At the time of Doan’s departure, the right winger was leading the team in points (12 goals and 11 assists). In the 12 games since, Phoenix has averaged just 2.33 goals per contest.