DETROIT - Ninety minutes before Friday's game at Joe Louis Arena, Krys Kolanos pedaled an exercise bike.
Teammates wandered in and out of the visitors’ locker room to adjust stick curvatures with a torch.
General manager Mike Barnett stood at the end of the tunnel, his cell phone pressed to his ear.
Nobody talked to Kolanos. They gave him space — and held their breath.
After a 16-game stint with the club's AHL affiliate in Springfield, Mass., Kolanos was recalled Thursday after Tyson Nash and Mike Sillinger went down with injuries in a 4-3 loss at Nashville.
Nobody knew how long Kolanos would stay with the club. He didn't even dress Friday after Sillinger made a miraculous overnight recovery and stayed in the lineup.
With the Coyotes off for a few days and Springfield facing a heavy schedule, Kolanos learned later Friday he would be rejoining Springfield. His return to the NHL would have to wait.
Blessed with the rarest of skills, Kolanos is the face the Coyotes hope will lead them to a brighter future. Managing partner Wayne Gretzky is wowed by his talent. So is the coaching staff.
His nickname, “Special K," is an indication of that.
But the nickname is loaded with other connotations, too. Earlier this season Kolanos criticized the coaching staff for not pairing him with more talented players.
The statement didn't ruffle coach Bob Francis, whose skin is notoriously thick. But the message didn't do him any favors in the locker room, especially when Kolanos managed just two goals and two assists in his first 21 games.
When Barnett demoted him to Springfield Nov. 29, the public reason for the move was to let Kolanos get his game and confidence back.
Following a breakout rookie season, Kolanos' star crashed to earth on a vicious hit by Buffalo's Vaclav Varada two-thirds of the way through the 2001-2002 season.
He missed the rest of year, all but two games of the following season and never seemed himself early this season.
But in demoting Kolanos, the Coyotes also wanted their 22-year-old prodigy to become a more responsible defensive player, and swallow a small dose of humility.
Kolanos had never played in the AHL, making a seamless jump from college hockey to the pros. Because of that, Barnett said he never gained an appreciation for life in the NHL.
“It's a complex set of circumstances when you send a talented player down to a league that consists largely of less experienced, less talented, and in many cases, more motivated players," Barnett said. “His time down there has made him aware of some of his shortcomings. It's made him aware that he has to play in a way that Bobby Francis demands."
While he's still not certain his play warranted the demotion, Kolanos said he got the message.
“It was good to get out and score and get that feeling — that hunger back. That's huge for me,” he said, after notching nine goals and 15 points. “It also made me appreciate what I have going here."
The Coyotes hope it carries over.
“Patience with Krys would only be logical when you have someone that young and that talented," Barnett said. “We've made some specific demands and he's been addressing them. Hopefully, you'll see what he's capable of doing when he's playing with passion."