Shane Doan isn’t looking forward to the start of the NHL playoffs just because he’s waited eight years for the Phoenix Coyotes to qualify again.
The veteran forward has gone 23 games without scoring a goal – two months and counting thanks to the Olympic break – and is anxious for a fresh start.
“We all start over at zero here in three games and I’ve got to make sure I’m ready for that,” Doan said Monday on a conference call.
The scoring drought is unlike anything he’s endured since the early days of his NHL career. Doan has recorded 20 or more goals in nine straight seasons and will see that run end unless he can score three times in the team’s final three games.
The Coyotes captain is still averaging more than 19 minutes of ice time a game and has received plenty of support from coach Dave Tippett – to his face, anyway.
“Tip and the coaching staff are trying to stay positive with me, which I’m sure is just when they’re talking to me,” said Doan. “In private, I’m sure they’re pulling their hair out like, ‘Come on Doaner, you’ve got to help us out a little bit here.’ …
“I know that a puck will go in the net and when it does it will be great.”
Doan’s last goal came during a game in Dallas on Jan. 31. Since then, he’s had plenty of shots on goal and numerous quality scoring chances.
“It just happens,” he said. “I’d love to score. I think it’s been about 65 shots since the puck’s went in. I’ve had a couple close ones and a couple that have been called back.”
Despite the recent personal struggles, Doan has still found plenty of reasons to smile.
He’s been part of the franchise since it moved to Phoenix in 1996 and was often left defending the market during the team’s bankruptcy proceedings over the summer. Since then, the storyline has turned positive thanks to the Coyotes’ surprising on-ice performance.
Not only is Phoenix back in the playoffs, it is virtually guaranteed to have home-ice advantage in the first round.
“In the beginning of the year, we got a little bit more attention because people wanted to see how badly we might fail,” said Doan. “As we started to have more success, it started to go the other way where people were like, ‘Holy man, can these guys hold it together and can they keep doing it?’
“It’s been a fun year for us.”
It will only get better in the next couple weeks.
Only 32 of Doan’s 1,076 career NHL games have come in the playoffs and he’s set to start adding to that total. His last taste of the post-season came in 2002, when San Jose eliminated the Coyotes in a five-game first-round series.
With games Wednesday (versus Nashville), Thursday (at Los Angeles) and Saturday (at San Jose), Doan hopes to end the goal-less streak before the end of the regular season.
He’s already started to taking heat about it inside the Coyotes dressing room.
“I think we’re to the point where we’re joking about it now,” said Doan. “There’s not a lot else you can do. It’s as frustrated as I’ve ever been with scoring goals. I’ve never had anything like this, we’ll just keep on working.
“I can do a lot of other things and I’ve got to make sure I don’t let that focus kind of take away from anything else.”
Besides, the slump helps highlight just how dramatic the turnaround in Phoenix has been.
For years, Doan was viewed as the lone top-end player on a struggling team. Now the Coyotes have topped 100 points with him locked in a slump for a significant part of the season.
“It’s been frustrating not to have scored and yet incredibly nice to know that we continue to win and we’re continuing to be successful,” said Doan. “I look forward to the playoffs and getting a fresh start on it. I can’t wait.”