Doan cleared to return to Coyotes on Saturday vs. Flyers

Coyotes captain Shane Doan itchin' to go after missing 12 games with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

Shane Doan led the Coyotes with 12 goals and 23 points before being sidelined with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever on Dec. 4.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea / USA TODAY Sports

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Coyotes finally got the news they've been waiting to hear for a month. Captain Shane Doan is ready to return to the lineup on Saturday against the Philadelphia Flyers.

"We kind of had targeted next week, but with the way he looks out there and he's got the green light by the doctors, I think it would be hard to keep him out of the game," coach Dave Tippett said.

Doan has not played since Dec. 4 in Calgary. He started showing symptoms of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever on a three-game trip through western Canada. While the team was in Vancouver for the final game of the trip, the Canucks team doctor started him on a regimen of Doxocyclin because he suspected the disease, which can be difficult to diagnose.

"Because he was from South Africa (a variant of the disease is found there), he'd seen it in the bush quite a bit," said Doan, who thanked the doctor again on Friday for helping prevent the disease from becoming even more serious.

Doan said doctors still do not know how he contracted the disease, which the CDC says is caused by the bacterium Rickettsia rickettsii. The organism is a cause of potentially fatal human illness in North and South America, and is transmitted to humans by the bite of infected tick species.

Although it doesn't preclude the possibility, doctors never found a tick bite on Doan, but Doan said he found four ticks on his dog. Throughout the past month, the symptoms included joint aches, headaches, hot and cold flashes and extreme fatigue, but doctors told him there is no risk that the disease will return.

"It made you feel really old," Doan, 37, said. "I get teased in the (locker) room. I guess I am really old."

Doan said it will be hard to predict how he'll react on Saturday because the disease is so rare that players and team medical staffs have no precedent on which to draw.  

"I know I can contribute and help," he said. "I'm sure I'll be a little rusty and a little bit winded, but we'll get over it."

Tippett said the team will keep a close on eye on Doan's condition, if not a close ear.

"I would say it's more watching than asking," Tippett said, laughing. "Sometimes the player's opinion and the coach's opinion differ.

"It'll be interesting. He had a great summer to train and he came into camp in great shape, but when you miss a month, practice is one thing; games is another.

I'm sure I'll be a little rusty and a little bit winded, but we'll get over it.

Shane Doan

"When you have top players, they think like top players all of the time, but sometimes their body doesn't do what the mind is telling them."

Coming off an utterly flat performance against Columbus in a 2-0 loss on Thursday, the Coyotes could use the emotional spark Doan can provide.

"We have great group as far as leadership, but you can'€™t replace a guy like Shane," center Antoine Vermette said. "It's going to be great to see him again."

Doan was the team's leading scorer at the time he was sidelined, with 12 goals and 23 points. The Coyotes are 4-3-5 without him, after starting 16-8-4.

"Before he went out we had some pretty good rhythm in our lineup with the top three lines," Tippett said. "You lose hard, big, strong veterans like that it takes a toll on your lineup."

Tippett didn't say Doan definitely will play, but with the decision now firmly in Doan's hands, it seems a lock that he'll be back on the ice Saturday. The Coyotes re-assigned forward Chris Brown to Portland on Friday to free a roster spot for Doan.

"It'€™s hard to watch in tight games when you want to be able to help out," Doan said. "That's what we're supposed to do, that's what I'm paid to do.

"Whether it's being the best cheerleader there is or scoring a goal, I really just want to try to help."

MacKenzie suspended for Ekman-Larsson hit

Columbus forward Derek MacKenzie has been suspended three games for boarding Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson in Thursday's 2-0 win over the Coyotes at Arena, the NHL's Department of Player Safety announced Friday afternoon.

No penalty was called on the first-period play despite the fact that the puck was involved and officials were looking right at the play. Ekman-Larsson skated slowly to the team bench, slumped over, and left the game immediately. He did not return. He is officially listed with an upper-body injury. Coach Dave Tippett said Friday that Ekman-Larsson was feeling better but was still listed as day-to-day and questionable for Saturday's home game against the Philadelphia Flyers.

In other news, Coyotes defenseman Zbynek Michalek skated for the first time Friday since suffering a lower-body injury that has sidelined him since Dec. 17 at Montreal. There is still no timetable for Michalek's return.

Forwards Radim Vrbata, Martin Hanzal and David Moss missed Friday's practice, but Tippett said they were just taking maintenance days.

Follow Craig Morgan on Twitter