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Coyotes vs. Senators Preview

Arizona forward Radim Vrbata will play in his 1,000th NHL game on Thursday night

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

GLENDALE -- The Coyotes will return to action after a rare three-day break from games on Thursday when they host the Ottawa Senators. The puck drops at 7 p.m. Arizona time at Gila River Arena.

Arizona (23-35-7) will be playing its first game since Sunday when it lost, 2-1, to Carolina at home.

Head Coach Dave Tippett is seeking better puck management over the final 17 games of the season.

"If you want to be a winning team, you've got to take care of the puck," Tippett said after Sunday's game. "We turn the puck over so much. We shoot ourselves in the foot."

Video: Dave Tippett previews Thursday's game vs. Sens

Mike Smith will start in goal. Smith has lost four straight decisions since beating Anaheim on Feb. 20. He's struggled vs. Ottawa in his career with just five wins in 12 games and a 3.42 goals-against average.

Forward Radim Vrbata, who leads the Coyotes in goals (15), assists (33) and points (48), will skate in his 1,000th NHL game. He will be the 310th player in NHL history to reach the 1,000-game milestone and only the 12th player in team history to skate in his 1,000th game with the franchise. It's an impressive feat for the 212th overall pick in the 1999 NHL Draft.

"It's a big number and there is lots of emotion, but you want to focus on the game and the things you normally do," said Vrbata, who has 13 points (four goals, nine assists) in his past 13 games. "I've played half of my career here and I'm glad it worked out to where I get to play this game in front of Coyotes fans."

Video: Vrbata looks ahead to playing his 1,000th NHL game

Tippett has enjoyed coaching Vrbata. 

"He's been a good player for a long time," Tippett said. "You look at his career, it's an outstanding career. (He has) jumped around a little bit, but he's a player that when all is said and done is going to look back and he had a really good career here and other places."

Defenseman Luke Schenn, who is seeking his first goal of the season, has scored five of his 28 NHL goals vs. Ottawa.

Arizona will be looking to improve its power-play production. The Coyotes will enter the game ranked 27th in the NHL at 15.8 percent thanks to its current 3-for-34 slump. 

The Coyotes will again play minus forward Alexander Burmistrov and defenseman Kevin Connauton. Both are nursing upper-body injuries.

Ottawa (37-22-6) has won four games in a row to climb to within four points of first-place Montreal in the Atlantic Division standings.

The Senators beat Dallas, 5-2, on Wednesday night to start a three-game trip. Ottawa has won 18 road games this season, the second-highest total by an Eastern Conference team behind only the New York Rangers (24).

Goalie Craig Anderson made 35 saves vs. the Stars, but he'll likely watch teammate Mike Condon face the Coyotes in the back-to-back scenario. Condon has played just twice since Feb. 19 and he lost both games. 

Defenseman Erik Karlsson leads the Sens with 58 points and 47 assists. Forwards Kyle Turris and Mark Stone are Ottawa's top goal scorers with 22 each. Turris didn't play Wednesday because of a broken finger and is not expected to play against the Coyotes, who drafted him third overall in 2007.

Forward Alexandre Burrows has produced three goals and one assist in four games since coming to Ottawa via a trade with Vancouver just before the NHL trade deadline last week.

Forward Christopher DiDomenico will make his NHL debut, playing on the third line with Ryan Dzingel and Zack Smith.

Video: Connor Murphy previews Thursday's game vs. Sens



TV: FOX Sports Arizona 

Radio: ESPN Phoenix 620 AM


Tweet from @ArizonaCoyotes: Tonight's projected lineup. #Yotes


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