'Yotes Notes: Hanzal Expected Back in Lineup Soon
GLENDALE – Center Martin Hanzal didn’t practice with teammates on Tuesday before the Coyotes departed for Calgary, but he did accompany the team on its three-game trip to western Canada and is expected back in the lineup soon.
Hanzal missed Monday’s 4-2 loss to Toronto because of a lower-body injury and is considered day-to-day.
“He’s still the same,” Head Coach Dave Tippett said after Tuesday’s practice. “We’ll see where he’s at tomorrow morning (at the morning skate in Calgary). Hopefully, he's improved overnight. We'll see.”
Hanzal co-leads the Coyotes with 14 goals and ranks second in points with 34, one behind linemate Radim Vrbata. He trails only Antoine Vermette in ice time among the forwards at 19:00 per game, and he ranks 17th in the NHL in faceoff circles by winning 54.7 percent of his draws.
"You always miss a guy like that," Vrbata said. "He’s big for us 5-on-5, short-handed and on power play… Hopefully he’ll be back soon."
Defenseman Keith Yandle extended his point streak to four games by assisting on Mike Ribeiro's power-play goal on Monday night. He leads the team with 27 assists and ranks eighth among NHL defensemen in scoring with 33 points in 49 games.
He also mixed in a few saves while the Coyotes replaced goalie Mike Smith with an extra skater during the waning moments on Monday. Yandle has said that he played goalie at times as a young player before turning to the defenseman position full-time.
Yandle is approaching two milestones; he is four assists away from tying Phil Housley for sixth place on the franchise’s all-time career assists list for defensemen and he is nine assists away for 200 in his NHL career.
Vrbata has scored 11 goals this season, but just eight in 48 games since opening night when he netted a hat trick vs. the New York Rangers and none since Dec. 27 – a span of 12 games.It’s not from a lack of trying. Vrbata ranks first on the team and 15th in the League with 161 shots on goal. His shooting percentage is 6.8, which is his lowest since the 2006-07 season.
"There have been lots of chances lately but they’re not going in so I have to stick with it and hopefully some shots will find there way in," Vrbata said.
On the plus side, Vrbata has 24 assists in 47 games. His career-high for assists in a season is 29, which he did twice - in 76 games in 2007-08 and in 79 games in 2010-11.
Captain Shane Doan has played nine games since returning to the lineup after missing a month because of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
Doan has chipped in a goal and three assists in those nine games.
"He’s slowly getting up to speed," Tippett said. "I wouldn’t say he’s 100 percent yet, but he’s slowly working toward that. He has lots of try, lots of push in him. He’ll continue to move forward."
The Coyotes headed to western Canada with a 7-1-1 record vs. Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver this season and a combined 34-14-6 mark against those teams since Tippett became head coach at the start of the 2009-10 season.