After losing 14 mangames to injury in the first week of the season, the Coyotes are starting to get healthy. Coach Wayne Gretzky said Wednesday that topline center Petr Nedved, who strained his groin in the Oct. 5 season opener, will be activated from the injured list today and inserted into tonight’s lineup.
Nedved skated Tuesday for the first time since the injury and Wednesday went through a full practice. He felt so good that he spent extra time on the ice testing new skates.
Also, center Mike Ricci, who suffered a broken nose when he was hit in the face by a puck during Saturday’s game, will play against Nashville after sitting out Tuesday’s contest. Ricci will wear a shield but said he likely won’t keep it all season.
Defenseman Derek Morris, who has been nursing a groin injury since preseason and hasn’t played since Oct. 5, will again be a game-time decision. As he has said in the past, Gretzky said Wednesday that Morris will only play if he is 100 percent.
And as a precaution, David LeNeveu will start in goal to give Curtis Joseph some extra rest. Joseph injured his groin in the third period of Saturday’s game. He said he felt OK Sunday, but Monday his groin tightened up, and he had the training staff examine him. After skipping Tuesday’s game, Joseph went through a full practice Wednesday and said, "It felt a lot better." He will back up LeNeveu tonight and is scheduled to start Saturday vs. Detroit.
With Nedved activated, the Coyotes now must decide how to clear room for him on the 23-man active roster, a decision that won’t be made until after today’s morning skate, Gretzky said.
"If Derek can’t play we can always put him on the IR (retroactive) from the (Oct. 5) Vancouver game, in a worst-case scenario," Gretzky said. "We’re hoping Derek can play, so we won’t make that decision until after practice tomorrow."
Assuming everyone else stays healthy and Morris does play, the Coyotes would have to send a player to the minors or make a trade. The most likely candidate to be sent down seems to be center Jeff Taffe, who was a healthy scratch each of the last two games, but he would have to clear waivers first.
Gretzky said he thought speedy left wing Geoff Sanderson "played really well" Tuesday against Dallas, his first game with Phoenix since being acquired on Saturday, and has decided to try him on the top line with Shane Doan and Nedved.
The move will "maybe give Shane a little bit more speed, open up the ice a little bit for him," Gretzky said.
Left wing Mike Leclerc has changed his number from 7 to 28 and defenseman Zbynek Michalek has switched from 39 to 4. . . . Goalie Steve Passmore, who was called up for Tuesday’s game at Dallas but didn’t play, was sent back down to San Antonio. . . . Injured goalie Brian Boucher has begun skating with pads on. . . . The Coyotes’ mascot will be named Howler.