The Arizona Coyotes have been without their captain since the middle of January, but he finally looks close to making his return to the ice.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson started the 2021 season in positive form, registering three assists against the San Jose Sharks in the opening two games of the year, but an awkward hit has kept the team’s captain side-lined with an injury.
The first seven games without OEL saw Rick Tocchet’s side struggle through a 2-5-0 record until their three-win streak against the St. Louis Blues has pulled them up to an even 5-5-0, with three more games against the Blues over the next few days.
The team has missed their on-ice leader during his absence, but it seems that he is getting closer and closer to returning to the line-up and providing a reinvigorated Coyotes team with an additional boost.
Tocchet himself seems to believe Ekman-Larsson’s return is close, commenting that it is effectively up to the Coyotes captain as to whether or not he is ready to return, with Thursday’s practice giving him and the team a chance to assess his situation.
While he is close to returning, the Coyotes should err on the side of caution regarding Ekman-Larsson’s ice time when he is officially deemed ready to participate in a game once again.
The team is in good form against the Blues in the past three games, even without their sixth overall pick from the 2009 Draft in the line-up, and rushing him into game action could have an adverse effect on the team’s chemistry/performances and, of course, his health.
The Coyotes will need Ekman-Larsson’s leadership and on-ice talents in the long-run, with the team back in the playoff picture, and ensuring he can remain healthy and be a regular contributor to the team on the ice should be a priority once he can lace up in a game.