Just when things were starting to look up for the Arizona Coyotes, they’ve lost another forward to a long-term injury. Head coach Rick Tocchet today announced to reporters including Craig Morgan of The Athletic that Derek Stepan will be out four to six weeks with a lower-body injury.
This has been an incredible season in terms of injuries for the Coyotes, who have seen Jason Demers, Antti Raanta, Christian Dvorak, Nick Schmaltz, Jakob Chychrun, Michael Grabner and others all miss extensive time. Despite that the team has stuck around in the “turtle race” that is the Western Conference wild card competition, and sit just one point behind the Minnesota Wild for the final playoff spot. Their five-game winning streak has given them a 31-28-5 record on the season.
Losing Stepan is a tough break for the team given how heavily they have relied on him of late. The 28-year old center had logged at least 21:27 in five of his last six games heading into Thursday’s matchup that he exited early, including a season-high 24:25 on Tuesday evening. While he only has 32 points on the season, the team relies on him heavily in the defensive zone and on both special teams.
If Arizona can possibly get to the playoffs without Stepan he has a chance to return in time to suit up, but four weeks from today would leave only a handful of games left in the regular season.