Last night at Jobing.com Arena, Ed Jovanovski, the Phoenix Coyotes' assistant captain and mainstay on the team's blueline, limped off the ice midway through the third period. He disappeared down the tunnel to the dressing room and did not reappear for the rest of the night.
Several games ago, the Coyotes' top shut-down defenseman and blocked-shot leader Zbynek Michalek suffered a lower-body injury. For a couple of games, Michalek attempted to play through the pain, but last night he finally succumbed to reality and sat out. He now wears a walking cast and is "week-to-week."
Kurt Sauer, another of the team's mainstays on the blueline, hasn't played a game for the Coyotes since the season opener. He is back to skating but still not close to a return.
In seasons past, the injury bug has been cause for distress for the Coyotes. However, under Don Maloney's management the franchise has bolstered the depth chart significantly. And while the loss of top-line players always hurts a team, the impact is not nearly as severe this year thanks to the wealth of young, promising talent available within the system.
Defenseman David Schlemko was called up from AHL San Antonio to fill in for Michalek and notched an assist in his first game. Should Ed Jovanovski miss any significant ice time, prospect Sean Sullivan - who leads the Rampage in scoring with 3-10-13 and is a plus-8 so far - is ready to step in. And former Washington Capitals prospect Sami Lepisto has thrived after he went from seventh defenseman to starting blueliner with Sauer's injury.
On the forward side, the Rampage have Kevin Porter, Kyle Turris, and Viktor Tikhonov - all young but NHL-blooded prospects - are available for promotion, as well as prospect Brett MacLean who narrowly missed a roster spot out of camp this season. Even with Schlemko and Sullivan called up, Jonas Ahnelov is still available to bolster the blueline if necessary. Goalie Al Montoya waits in the wings after making the most of a late-season callup to the Coyotes last season.
Nobody likes to see regular players injured and unavailable, but it certainly should take the weight off of the Coyotes' management's and fans' shoulders to know that there are significant resources to fall back upon if the situation requires it.