Sunday: The Arizona Coyotes announced they have already recalled Demers from his conditioning stint after one game with the Roadrunners. He tallied one assist, three shots and had a minus-1 plus/minus. He should be ready to go for the team’s three-game homestand, starting Tuesday against Anaheim.
Saturday: In a season plagued by injuries, the Arizona Coyotes were dealt another cruel blow yesterday with the news that top center Derek Stepan would miss four to six weeks with a lower-body injury. Fortunately, they have been greeted with some good news on the injury front instead today. Veteran defenseman Jason Demers has been cleared for game action and has been reassigned to the AHL’s Tuscon Roadrunners for a conditioning stint, the team announced.
Demers, 30, has missed almost the entire 2018-19 season thus far with a lower-body injury. Injured in mid-November, Demers had only played 18 games for the Coyotes before a suspected knee injury has cost him the next 46 games and counting. If that was the only serious injury that Arizona was dealt, the absence of the capable defender still would have hurt, but to a much lesser extent. However, Demers injury was followed not long after by that of starting goaltender Antti Raanta, who is expected to be out for the season, and forward Michael Grabner, who remains sidelined. Additionally, Nick Schmaltz and Kyle Capobianco have since suffered season-ending injuries, while Stepan’s year may be over. The Coyotes have had a rough go of it this season in the injury department, with more than 300 man-games lost.
Yet, the team is still very much in the wild card race in the Western Conference, down just one point on the Minnesota Wild for the final playoff spot. With Christian Dvorak and Brad Richardson finally back to full health up front, Demers’ return would add much-needed support on the back end as the ’Yotes can take some solace in the fact that they are getting healthy at multiple positions. Demers could return to the Arizona lineup as early as Tuesday per The Athletic’s Craig Morgan, after a couple games in Tuscon. When he does, Demers brings nearly 600 NHL games worth of experience back to the locker room, as well as his strong two-way possession game. Even in the midst of numerous injuries, the veteran could be the player who puts the Coyotes over the top in their pursuit of a return to the postseason.