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‘Yotes Notes: Informal skates add new arrivals, including Zbynek Michalek

Arizona Coyotes center Derek Stepan (21) goes in for a breakaway against the Tampa Bay Lightning Monday, March 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – You can tell hockey season is approaching. The numbers at the Coyotes’ informal skates are swelling.

Monday’s skate at the Ice Den Scottsdale featured two teams with roughly two lines apiece.

Those numbers are being bolstered by a glut of prospects (mostly Tucson Roadrunners) and the goaltending is still reliant on random local guys and New Jersey Devils backup candidate Eddie Lack, but notable arrivals since our last check-in include forwards Derek Stepan, Michael Grabner, Christian Fischer and defenseman Jordan Oesterle.

Defenseman Kevin Connauton and forwards Brad Richardson and Josh Archibald, three mainstays, were joined by defensemen Ilya Lyubushkin, Kyle Capobianco, Dakota Mermis, P.O. Joseph, Cam Dineen and forward Brayden Burke, among others.

The rest of the Coyotes are expected to arrive later this week or next week.

Rookie camp begins Sept. 7; training camp begins Sept. 14.

Special guest

With the defensive ranks still a little thin, former Coyote Zbyněk Michálek has been taking part in the informal skates at the Ice Den.

Michálek still lives in the Valley and has also been helping coach his son’s (Andreas) youth team at the Ice Den.

He spent last season playing for Prague-based HC Sparta Praha in the Czech Extraliga after joining the team in November.

“It was a pretty good experience because I never got to play at home since I was a young kid because I was 17 and already playing in juniors,” said Michalek, who played two seasons with the Shawinigan Cataractes of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. “The only bad thing was that my kids were in school here in Arizona so I was there by myself for four, five months.”

Michálek, who played 612 games with the Coyotes from 2005-2017, has not decided if he will play next season.

He joked that he is training for an NHL comeback, but a longstanding problem with one of his hips and a history of concussions are weighing into his plans.

“This might be it; I might be done and retire,” he said. “But maybe I’ll see what’s out there and decide to play another season overseas. Right now, I am enjoying my kids and my family and some free time.”

Elkin’s new gig

The Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League hired former Coyotes goaltending coach Jon Elkin as a goaltending consultant on Monday.

The Coyotes hired Elkin in July 2015 as their goalie coach to work with longtime student Mike Smith. After the team traded Smith last summer, Elkin was demoted to Tucson as the team’s development coach while Corey Schwab was elevated to Elkin’s former position. Elkin’s contract was not renewed after the 2017-18 season.

Elkin said the new position pairs well with his long-running goaltender school which is also based in Toronto. Elkin wanted to remain in the pro game. The Marlies won the Calder Cup as AHL champs last season.

“Good in a lot of ways; being home certainly adds to the appeal,” Elkin said via text message while also highlighting the reasons he chose the job. “Smart, progressive coaching staff, good people and the resources available for development.”

Doan honors McCain

Former Coyotes captain Shane Doan joined the 98.7 Arizona’s Sports Station’s Doug & Wolf Show on Monday morning to discuss his relationship with and memories of Sen. John McCain, who died Saturday.

Doan also released a statement through the Coyotes:

“Senator McCain was a shining example of what a modern leader should be. He represented Arizona and the United States with class and dignity, and the courage and incredible strength that he demonstrated, in every test a man could face, impacted everyone who simply heard his story. His love for life was contagious and his passion for his family, state, country and Arizona sports teams left you optimistic and energized. I am so honored to have been able to call Senator McCain my friend, and am grateful to his family for allowing my family to be a part of their lives. Our hearts go out to Cindy and all the family during this difficult time.”

Doan will be a pallbearer at the Thursday memorial ceremony for McCain, per a release from the late Senator’s office.

Loose pucks

— Defenseman Jakob Chychrun was on the bench Monday watching his teammates skate at the Ice Den. Chychrun is 20.5 weeks removed from knee surgery and has resumed skating under the supervision of trainers.

— Roadrunners forward Nick Merkley was also at the Ice Den getting treatment as he rehabs from knee surgery. Merkley said the rehab is progressing well.

— Eddie Lack said he has friends in the Valley and recently bought a house in Scottsdale. He has been taking part in the informal skates for several weeks.

— Fischer said he worked out with teammates Vinnie Hinostroza, Christian Dvorak and several NHL players and prospects in Chicago this summer.

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