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How will Barrett Hayton’s imminent return impact Coyotes?

© Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Since leaving a game midway through on Nov. 16, Arizona Coyotes center Barrett Hayton has not been in the lineup since.

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As the No. 1 man in the middle, his overall impact on both ends of the ice had seen him turn into a true two-way forward.

The offensive numbers this year weren’t truly showing his progression on the ice as Hayton only racked up two goals and two assists in the first 16 games of the season.

Instead, he improved on the fine details of his game like skating, impeding the opposing goaltender’s vision by setting a screen, having a better sense on defense, etc.

Against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Hayton scored before immediately squinting in pain as he was grasping onto one of his wrists.

Moments later, he skated towards the Coyotes’ bench in discomfort, headed straight to the locker room and did not return.

It was first declared as an upper-body injury in which he would be out “week-to-week” before evolving into almost a two-month absence.

Since then, Arizona head coach André Tourigny has juggled the lines to see what can click and what can’t; alternating multiple centers up and down the lineup to see who can fill the void.

Jack McBain and Alex Kerfoot have been slotted in Hayton’s role between Clayton Keller and Nick Schmaltz. There have been even a few games where Schmaltz transitioned from the wing to center as well.

With rumblings that Hayton could be returning soon, though, he may very well reclaim his spot on the first line and top power play unit.

But there is also a sense that the Coyotes’ approach for him coming back could be to ease him in slowly before gradually building up his minutes more and more before the regular season concludes.

Either way, the fact that Hayton’s almost good to go will help Arizona (23-22-3) who are five points out from the last Wild Card spot in the Western Conference.

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Alec Cipollini is a reporter of the Arizona Coyotes and Cardinals for Burn City Sports. You can follow him on his X account @AlecCipollini

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