As the NHL lockout continues unabated with nary an end in sight, it shouldn't come as any surprise to Phoenix Coyotes fans that several of the team's stars will be looking to return to their homelands to stay sharp and get in to some real game action. As enticing as Shane Doan's play with the Coyotes Adult Hockey League may be, it seems as if at least two Coyotes players may be joining those playing abroad in the near future.
As Sarah McLellan reports on her AZCentral blog, forwards Martin Hanzal and Radim Vrbata may be shortly returning to the Czech Republic to play professionally while they wait for the NHL and NHLPA to get their crap straightened out. It appears as if Hanzal has already signed a contract with HC Mountfield in České Budějovice, and will play in the team's next game against Litvinov. Sarah also provides more information regarding the upper body injury that plagued Hanzal during last year's playoffs, noting that it was a wrist injury that did not require surgery. It certainly helps explain why Hanzal did not seem as effective as the playoffs drew on.
Unlike Hanzal, Radim Vrbata has thus far remained in the Valley, but is eying a potential return to the Czech Republic in the first weeks of November if no deal is reached. Vrbata would rejoin BK Mladá Boleslav, his hometown squad where he is a part owner and played during the 2004-05 lockout.
Sarah also reports that Czech defenseman Zbynek Michalek is remaining in Phoenix currently as he recovers from offseason hip surgery, skating at the Ice Den with other Coyotes players.
As with the other players that we have previously reported have crossed the Atlantic, it will be good to have them keeping in game shape for when (if) this lockout ends and there is an abbreviated preseason. Along with the youngsters playing for Portland (or Prescott), the Coyotes roster appears to be staying active, reflecting a hunger to return to the Western Conference Finals this year, and go beyond.
Finally, Sarah confirms the reports from our own Matt Shott that Flyers forward Scott Hartnell has come down to Phoenix to practice with some of the Coyotes players at the Ice Den.
Apparently Scott Hartnell and Chuck Kobasew are practicing at the Ice Den now— Matt Shott (@Shottsey94) October 22, 2012
I wonder how many #HartnellDown moments we will see at the practice sessions.