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Preview: Coyotes vs. Penguins

by Dave Vest @davest4yotes / Coyotes Sr. Director of News Content

GAME 47:

Coyotes (21-22-3) vs. Penguins (25-15-6) 

Arizona will conclude a two-game homestand with a matchup vs. Pittsburgh on Friday night in Glendale.

WHERE: Gila River Arena | WHEN: 7 p.m. (AZ time) | TV: FOX Sports Arizona | RADIO: Arizona Sports 98.7 FM

Video: Tocchet Seeks Solid Effort in Game Against Ex-Team

ABOUT THE 'YOTES: 

• Arizona will enter the game with 45 points, four behind Minnesota, which holds the second wildcard spot in the Western Conference standings with 36 games to play.

• The Coyotes have earned nine of 12 possible points over their past six games, and averaged 3.5 goals per game in that span.

• Arizona is 3-1-0 vs. Pittsburgh in Glendale since the start of the 2014-15 season, but the Penguins won the first game between the teams, 4-0, at PPG Paints Arena on Nov. 10. Sidney Crosby notched a goal and an assist, and was +4 in that game.

"When we played Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh, Crosby's line dominated and we didn't have an answer for him," Coyotes Head Coach Rick Tocchet said. "He's Sid, so we're going to have to have a pack mentality against those guys. They don't lose very often, and they lost their last game, so I'm sure they're not too happy. You get an angry team, with that kind of talent and a winning pedigree, it's something that we've got to be aware of." 

Darcy Kuemper did not practice on Thursday but is expected to play vs. the Penguins seeking his fifth victory in a row. Kuemper is 4-0-0 with a .933 save percentage during his season-long winning streak. His NHL career-high for consecutive wins is five, which he set while with Minnesota in 2013-14.

Calvin Pickard, who last played in an NHL game on Nov. 24 for Philadelphia, will again be Kuemper's backup. At some point, perhaps as early as the next road trip, Tocchet plans to use Pickard as the starter. 

"I'd like to give (Kuemper) some steady games here, get him in a groove, but we're going to need 'Pick,' too," Tocchet said this week. "I'm not sure what games he's going to play, but he's definitely going to have to play some games for us."

Tweet from @ArizonaCoyotes: Tonight's projected lineup. #OurPack #PITvsARI pic.twitter.com/RX0zeEwYm6

Oliver Ekman-Larsson needs one goal to take sole possession of first place on the franchise's list for goals scored by a defenseman. Ekman-Larsson and Teppo Numminen are tied with 108 goals. 

• The Coyotes are the League's top penalty-killing team (88.2%). Since 1977-78, only six NHL teams have finished a season with a PK% above 88.2.

Richard Panik is tied with Clayton Keller for most goals scored (18) since Jan. 10, 2018, the day Panik joined the team via a trade with Chicago.

• Keller, who leads the team with 32 points, needs one more to reach 100 for his NHL career. 

• Jordan Weal, who notched his first point with the Coyotes during Arizona's 6-3 win over San Jose on Wednesday, has notched three goals and three assists in seven career game vs. Pittsburgh.

ABOUT THE PENGUINS:

• Pittsburgh has lost two games in a row and three of its past five, but still holds the second wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference standings with 56 points, two ahead of Buffalo ...The Penguins have scored 162 goals, which ranks sixth in the NHL ... Pittsburgh is excelling on special teams; fifth in the NHL on PP (25.4%) and third in the NHL on PK (85.0%) ... Sidney Crosby leads the team and ranks 13th in the League with 55 points ... Jake Guentzel is Pittsburgh's top goal scorer with 23 ... Brian Dumoulin leads the Eastern Conference at +26 ... Kris Letang is one of just four NHLers who plays 26:00 per game or more ... Goalie Matt Murray has won nine of his past 10 starts. 

Video: 'Yotes Bites: 'We've Got to Use Our Speed'

'YOTES QUOTES:

• "We've got to use our speed. A big piece of this team is using our speed to get on guys quick and taking time and space away. I think that's going to be the biggest thing for us tonight because ... there's a lot of gifted players over there, some of the best players in the world, so if you give them a lot of time to make decisions and to make plays, it's going to be bad for us, but if we take that space away as quick as we can and play on them hard, it will be a good night." - Jordan Weal

• "We've got a three-game road trip coming up and we've been playing pretty good here in the last couple games, so a win here would be huge to get some more points and gain some more ground. We're trying to make a push here and see where it takes us." - Conor Garland 

• "We're defending well. We're not giving up too much and I think we've been really good on the forecheck, hounding pucks, retrieving pucks and getting pucks to the net. I think we've been getting more shots on goal lately as well, and testing the goalie, and that's given us more opportunity to score. I know that's been a problem in the past, creating opportunities, but as long as you're creating the opportunities they're going to go in eventually. So, we need to continue to do that and continue to defend hard." -- Jakob Chychrun

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