GAME: Carolina Hurricanes (16-7-2) at Phoenix Coyotes (13-12-2).
TIME: Saturday, 9 p.m. EST.
After getting off to the best start in franchise history, the Hurricanes are starting to struggle.
Carolina looks to bounce back from its first shootout loss of the season when they continue their season-high six-game road trip against the Phoenix Coyotes.
The Hurricanes lost 5-4 Friday in a shootout to the Dallas Stars. Cory Stillman and Justin Williams scored in the third period to send the game into overtime for Carolina.
"Take the point and run out of here," said coach Peter Laviolette, whose team is 2-1 in shootouts. "We had way too many guys not working. The game itself was not good by our standards."
The loss was the fifth in seven games for the Hurricanes, who started the season 14-3-1. Carolina has been outscored 30-22 over its last seven games, including a 4-3 shootout win Nov. 25 the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Hurricanes' lead in the Southeast Conference has shrunk to one point over the surging Tampa Bay Lightning.
"Horrible start," Carolina's Rod Brind'Amour said. "I don't know how to explain it. We're giving up way too many easy goals. You can't do that and expect to come back every time."
Defenseman Glen Wesley left the game in the third period after being accidentally hit in the face by a stick and may not be available for this contest.
The Coyotes lost for just the second time in six games, falling 6-1 Wednesday to the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. Joffrey Lupul scored the lone goal for Anaheim, which lost by more than two goals for just the second time this season.
The Coyotes were outshot 35-17 and went 0-for-7 on the power play.
"I was more disappointed at the first few power plays than the breakdowns we had on a couple of their goals," Gretzky said. "We were not hungrier for the puck and didn't give ourselves more opportunities."
Phoenix will welcome center Petr Nedved and defenseman Derek Morris back to the lineup. Nedved missed three games with a mild concussions while Morris has been sidelined since Nov. 22 with bruised ribs.
STANDINGS (through Dec. 2): Hurricanes - 34 points, 1st place, Southeast Division. Coyotes - 28 points, 3rd place, 7 PB, Pacific Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Hurricanes - Eric Staal, 18 goals, 18 assists and 36 points; Mike Commodore, 49 PIM. Coyotes - Mike Leclerc, 9 goals; Ladislav Nagy, 16 assists and 24 points; Sean O'Donnell, 59 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS (through Dec. 2): Hurricanes - Power play: 18.4 percent (30 for 163), 11th (tied) in NHL. Penalty killing: 78.7 percent (111 for 141), 28th. Coyotes - Power play: 18 percent (32 for 177), 14th. Penalty killing: 82.2 percent (134 for 163), 17th (tied).
GOALTENDERS: Hurricanes - Martin Gerber (10-6-0, 2 SO, 2.54 GAA); Cam Ward (6-2-1, 3.67). Coyotes - Curtis Joseph (11-7-0, 2, 2.12); David Leneveu (2-5-2, 3.20).
2003-04 SEASON SERIES: 0-0.
LAST MEETING: Jan. 4, 2004; Coyotes, 3-0. At Raleigh, N.C., Branko Radivojevic had three assists and Brian Boucher stopped 26 shots for the Coyotes.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Hurricanes - 7-3-2 on the road; Coyotes - 7-5-1 at home.
KEY TO THE GAME
The key to the game for the Coyotes will be desire. On Wednesday night, the Coyotes were simply outworked by the Mighty Ducks because Anaheim wanted the win more. This will have to change if the Coyotes are to get back on a winning streak beginning Saturday.
Phoenix will need to not only match the determination and effort of the 'Canes, but take it to another level and force Carolina to try and play catch up.
Following practice on Friday, Coyotes Head Coach Wayne Gretzky stated that forward Tyson Nash, who has been battling a abdominal strain for several weeks, would be returning to Philadelphia sometime in the next few days for a second meeting with an abdominal specialist. At that time, Nash will learn if his strain requires surgery or not.
NEDVED READY TO RETURN
Coyotes center Petr Nedved, who has missed the last three games due to a mild concussion, will be back in the line up when Phoenix hosts the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday night.
"Petr has been practicing hard every day and he is ready to get back out there, " said Gretzky.
MORE LINE UP CHANGES
The Coyotes will make a few more changes to their line up on Saturday as defenseman Derek Morris and forward Fredrik Sjostrom will return to the line up.
Morris will take the place of rookie defenseman Matt Jones, who was called up after Morris suffered bruised ribs on November 22, 2005 against Anaheim.
It is not yet known whose place Sjostrom will take in Saturday's line up.
"We are in a position right now where we have a lot of very talented guys who are looking to get back in there and play," said Gretzky. "With Freddie (Sjostrom), I think he might have hit a little bit of a wall after having such an impressive training camp and earning his way onto the team. But to his credit, he hasn't complained and he has continued to work hard every single day in practice and he deserves to be put back in the line up.
BOUCHER WINS IN REHAB START
On Thursday night, Coyotes goaltender Brian Boucher stopped all 19 shots he faced in regulation to help lead the San Antonio Rampage to a 1-0 victory over the Cleveland Barons.