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Welcome back: Coyotes’ Christian Dvorak makes season debut

Christian Dvorak of the Arizona Coyotes skates up to a face-off during the third period of the NHL game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Gila River Arena on December 16, 2017 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Arizona Coyotes, like many other teams in the league, welcomed a player into their lineup for the first time this season in their first game after the trade deadline.

Christian Dvorak made his season debut for 2018-19 on Tuesday, finally making his way back from a pair of injuries that have kept him out of NHL action since March 29, 2018. He played 13:18 in the Coyotes’ 4-3 shootout victory over the Florida Panthers, Arizona’s fourth win in a row.

He was a minus-3 — being on the ice for all three of Florida’s goals — but was heavily involved offensively and registered two shots on goal, two hits, a block, a giveaway and won five faceoffs in 11 tries. He also had 1:30 of power play time.

“I thought ‘D’ was fine early,” head coach Rick Tocchet said. “It was unfortunate, some of those goals [against], I don’t think it’s his fault. I think he played 13, 14 minutes, he was fine. He was skating well early. He’s just got to get his legs under him.”

Through the first 25 minutes-or-so of play, Dvorak was controlling the puck for what were arguably the two best scoring chances the Coyotes had up to that point. He didn’t score on either one — the first being a partial breakaway on a stretch pass and the other being an opportunity right on the doorstep of the crease on a pass from Alex Galchenyuk.

“I thought I was alright. I thought I had some chances I thought I should’ve scored on,” Dvorak said. “I was out there for all three goals against, so that’s never good. There’s some things to work on and all-in-all, I felt pretty solid.”

Dvorak also made a nice play late in the game when the Panthers were on the offensive zone rush. He got back defensively and made a simple poke-check to quell a scoring chance with less than a minute remaining.

“It feels good. You don’t really feel like part of the team, really, when you’re not playing,” Dvorak said. “And it’s been a while. So, it’s a lot of fun to be back, especially at this time of year.”

After getting back Dvorak — and sending center Jordan Weal to Montreal in a trade on Monday — the Coyotes had Nick Cousins, Derek Stepan, Brad Richardson and Dvorak as the four centers in their lineup, top-to-bottom.

Dvorak was listed on the fourth line with Richard Panik and Conor Garland.

The Coyotes will play again on Thursday night, the third game in a seven-game homestand in the midst of a playoff race. That contest is against Vancouver, with puck drop set for 7 p.m. on ESPN 620 AM.

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