Raffi Torres says he's a changed man, that he's found religion in the wake of his 25-game suspension for an illegal hit on Marian Hossa in last year's playoffs.
"We have to protect the top players in the league, and if it's going to take me thinking a little bit out there instead of running around with my head cut off, that's what it's going to take," he said. "At the end of the day, I need to keep playing. This is what I want to do. And if I want to keep playing in this league, I'm going to have change the way [I play]."
The Coyotes agitator has only played two games since his suspension ended, and he's still just trying to get his conditioning and timing back, so it's too early to tell how much he's changed. But Coyotes coach Dave Tippett has been working with Torres on adapting his style better to the rules of the NHL.
"We talked a lot, looked at a lot of video and a lot of situations that we think we can help him out," Tippett said. "He's a real competitive, good player. He's just had some reckless in his game, and not just the one in the playoffs last year, but before that. So we've tried to show him instances where he's gone out of his way to deliver a hit that, if we take those out of his game, he can still be a very competitive player without the recklessness."
Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith said that Torres is a better player than he's given credit for.
"I don't know if I noticed a change," Smith said. "He's definitely gotten faster, stronger and it seems like he's working very hard to work on the skills of the game. The skills are there. He's a quick player and he's got a very good shot. He brings a physical aspect to it. He's kind of an all-around player. He brings a lot of energy to our team, and you need a guy like that in the lineup."
Smith, for one, isn't expecting too much drama Thursday night in the second meeting between the two teams since the Torres hit, and the first with Torres on the ice.
"You can build it up as much as you want, but I think Raffi's just worried about playing his game. It is what it is. It was a long time ago now. Raffi's an important part of this team. We're a better team with him in the lineup. It should make for an interesting game."