GLENDALE, Ariz. — Shane Doan gathered the Coyotes at center ice for a short pep talk at Thursday’s practice. The shortened version of his message to a team that has lost five straight games sounded like this:
“In order for the team to be better, you personally have to be better,” Doan said. “There’s an element to that that is personal accountability to yourself. Don’t take the easy way out and say ‘we’re not playing well.’ As much as it’s we, it’s you.”
Despite nearly 20 years of NHL experience and nearly 13 years of captaincy, Doan found the message hard to deliver.
“It’s hard as someone who hasn’t been playing,” he said.
Doan has missed the past eight games with a groin injury that has lingered since training camp — one he admits has “shocked” him with its steadfast refusal to heal. It’s the longest stretch Doan has ever spent on the sidelines in his NHL career due to an injury (he missed a month in the 2013-14 season with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever).
Doan practiced on Thursday and he hasn’t ruled out playing Friday against the Minnesota Wild and Saturday against the Carolina Hurricanes, but “but I probably haven’t ruled out the past few games and they came and went.”
The Coyotes could really use their captain on the ice right now. Rookie forward Anthony Duclair has hit a wall with one point in his last seven games, center Antoine Vermette has played like ghost of his former self, defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson is making an uncharacteristic amount of mistakes that are due, in part, to logging too many tough minutes and the team could use an emotional shot in the arm.
Instead, the team could be further shorthanded. Top center Martin Hanzal missed Thursday’s practice with a lower-body injury that sidelined him for the final game of the team’s five-game road trip in St. Louis. Both he and Doan will be re-evaluated at Friday’s morning skate, but coach Dave Tippett was not leaning toward the positive side when he assessed the availability of Hanzal or his captain.
“If he’s ready to play he’ll play,” Tippett said of Doan. “If he’s not up to the speed we think he can get to then why would we risk it?”
After this weekend’s back-to-back set, the Coyotes have four days off before their next game on Dec. 17 against Columbus so it might make sense to hold Doan out an additional week rather than risk taking a step back.
“I’m not really thinking about it but I know Serbs (head athletic trainer Jason Serbus) is. He does a good job taking care of everybody. There’s an element of trust you have to have there with them and they’ve got to trust you,” Doan said.
“Any decision I would make would be off of his recommendation. If I thought I could play and I thought I could contribute and that I wouldn’t go backwards, I’d do everything I could to help. But if you think you’re going to play and then be worse off at the end of it then it doesn’t always make sense.
“There’s always that concern with certain injuries and when that is the case you have to be careful.”
With Hanzal out of practice on Thursday, Tippett had newcomer Viktor Tikhonov centering wings Max Domi and Mikkel Boedker.
“With our injuries right now he’s going to get some playing time; he’s going to get some minutes,” Tippett said. “We have to figure out what we have. He’s a smart player and he’s got some good skill so we’re going to give him an opportunity. He’ll probably get to play more important minutes than he’s played with Chicago this year.”
Wild at Coyotes
When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Where: Gila River Arena, Glendale
TV: FOX Sports Arizona Plus
Radio: Arizona Sports 98.7 FM
Injury report: Coyotes — F Shane Doan (groin) and F Martin Hanzal (lower body) are questionable. Doan practiced Thursday; Hanzal did not. The Coyotes also recalled G Louis Domingue from Springfield (AHL) late Thursday after one of their goalies (undisclosed) suffered a minor injury. Wild — G Devan Dubnyk (groin) did not make the trip.
Scouting the Wild: The Wild have recorded points in a season-high five straight (3-0-2) games but Minnesota is coming off its fifth loss in six overtimes this season at Colorado. … Wild G Darcy Kuemper will start. He shut out Arizona in his only career start vs. the Coyotes last season. … C Mikael Granlund has 12 points in his past 13 games and RW Jason Pominville has three goals and an assist in his past four games. … LW Zach Parise has nine goals and 14 points in 13 career games vs. Arizona.