Shane Doan is trying to ignore the elephant in the room

Apr 1, 2017, 2:42 PM | Updated: Apr 2, 2017, 7:53 am
Arizona Coyotes forward Shane Doan (19) looks on prior to the first period of an NHL hockey game ag...
Arizona Coyotes forward Shane Doan (19) looks on prior to the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Buffalo Sabres, Thursday, March. 2, 2017, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)
(AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — As he prepared for what could be the final five games of his 21-season NHL career, Coyotes captain Shane Doan sounded wistful on Friday morning at the Ice Den in Scottsdale.

“It’s amazing how quickly you go from thinking you have lots of time to realizing you have no time,” said Doan, who is slogging through his least productive season since 1998-99. “This whole year, you wish you had a do-over on, but you don’t get them so you want to make sure you finish them off the right way.”

Doan will at least get to finish off the season on the ice. The Valley icon returned to the lineup on Friday against the league-leading Washington Capitals after a seven-game absence due to a lower-body injury (the team went 1-6 without him). The Coyotes promptly produced what was arguably their most impressive win of the season, a 6-3 win over the league-leading Washington Capitals that represented a season high in goals for Arizona.

Doan, who had an assist in the game, was trying to ignore the elephant in the room when he took the ice against the Caps. He hasn’t decided yet if he’ll retire after this season, and he probably won’t decide until after the season, but the thought is still there.

“You understand that depending on how everything feels and everything goes, that is one of the ways it could go,” he said. “I’m trying to just focus on a game against the Washington Capitals, they’re the best team in the NHL, which is the best league in the world so that’s worth being happy and excited about.

“But I think it’s in everyone’s mind as they get to the end of their careers that there is a lot less ahead than there is behind. It’s inevitable not to think about it a little bit but if you get caught up in it then it makes it that much more difficult to handle.”

Doan isn’t alone in those conflicted thoughts. As he talked, veteran defenseman Zbynek Michalek sat in his stall wondering if he would ever crack the lineup again before his contract, and likely his NHL career, expires this season.

With veteran right winger Radim Vrbata also in the last year of his contract, goalie Mike Smith mused over the idea of his teammates calling him grandpa next season. Smith wishes the situation were different for Doan.

“You’d hate to see a guy like that be done because he’s meant so much to this organization and this team and Arizona,” Smith said. “You’d just miss the guy huge if he were to call it quits.

“What I think about most often is we haven’t really given him a good shot to compete for a Stanley Cup. It makes me sick to my stomach a little bit to know a guy that has been in the league that long, that’s accomplished everything personally that he has, has only really had that one real taste of getting close to a Cup. It was a special year — one I will remember for a long, long time and I’m sure he will too — but I feel like he deserves more.”

Coyotes at Kings

When: 7:30 p.m., Friday
Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles
TV: FOX Sports Arizona Plus
Radio: ESPN 620 AM
Records: Kings — 37-33-7. Coyotes — 28-41-9.
Season series: Tied, 2-2

Injury report: Coyotes — G Mike Smith (illness) and D Kevin Connauton (upper body) is day to day and could play. C Brad Richardson (broken right tibia and fibula) is on injured reserve. The Coyotes announced Saturday that he is out for the season. Kings — D Matt Greene (back/groin) is on IR.

Scouting the Kings: Los Angeles will be eliminated from the playoffs if the Nashville Predators gain one more point in their last four games or the Kings lose one point in their last five games. It would mark the second time in the past three seasons that the 2012 and 2014 Cup champs missed the postseason (they lose in the first round last year). … C Jeff Carter leads the team with 32 goals and 62 points. … C Anze Kopitar has just 12 goals and 48 points this season.

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Shane Doan is trying to ignore the elephant in the room