It seems like the Coyotes will finally be nearing full strength after going 2-4-1 through the NHL season’s first seven games.
During the span, the injury-laden squad battled to keep its head above water while missing five of its key players due to injury and one to a suspension retroactive to last season.
Phoenix head coach Dave Tippett told Arizona Sports 620’s Burns and Gambo that among the players he’s looking forward to getting back is 38-year-old forward Steve Sullivan who missed Wednesday’s game with a lower-body injury.
“It’s not just to the effect of him, it’s when you have, you know, looking at the board last night and we have six good NHL players not dressed in (Martin) Hanzal, Sullivan, (Rostislav) Klesla, (Mike) Smith, (Matthew) Lombardi and Raffi (Torres) suspended,” he said. “So you’re looking at six guys out of your roster that you’d certainly like to have in there, it makes a big impact.”
Fans and teammates missed goalie Smith while his understudy Jason Labarbera struggled to defend between the pipes. But the arrival of Chad Johnson, a call-up from the AHL’s Portland Pirates, alleviated much of the team’s stress at the net as he posted a shutout in his debut Monday and allowed two goals in his second start Wednesday.
Tippett told the show he’s been very pleased with Johnson’s ability to rise to the occasion.
“I think what he’s done is just come in and stabilized the position for us for a couple a couple of games, what we needed there,” he said. “Going forward, it looks like Smith will be back at the net tomorrow night so hopefully we’ll get on a run with him but Chad Johnson has been very good for us for two games.”
The coach said he expects Hanzal to put his skates on again by Friday and Torres to be back Saturday after serving a suspension for a hit put on Chicago’s Marion Hossa in last-year’s playoffs.
With their respective returns, the team will only be without Klesla and Lombardi, which Tippett said would make his job a lot easier.
“If you lose one, maybe two of those guys you can do some patchwork but with six out you really got to do some patchwork.”