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Preview: Flames vs. Coyotes

by Staff Writer / Calgary Flames

The Phoenix Coyotes' late-season surge may come as little surprise given their runs the past two years, though their current stretch has been just as impressive.

Recent meetings with the Calgary Flames have gone their way as well.

Streaking Phoenix looks to earn its seventh consecutive win both overall and against fading Calgary on Thursday night at Arena.

The Coyotes (33-21-9) sat in 12th place in the Western Conference after a loss to Anaheim on Jan. 31, but an 11-0-1 February has propelled them into the Pacific Division lead with 19 games remaining.

A win Thursday would give Phoenix a winning streak of at least seven games in the second half of each of the last three seasons. It qualified for the postseason after winning nine straight in March 2010, and again after taking eight in a row in February 2011.

The Coyotes capped February with a 2-1 shootout win over Vancouver on Tuesday, avenging their only loss of the month. They'll now seek to win eight straight at home for the first time since a 10-game run from Nov. 21-Dec. 29, 2009.

"That was a heck of a month by any team's standards and we had to earn (wins) both home and on the road," said Ray Whitney, who has a goal in three straight games. "We beat some quality teams."

Mike Smith made 39 saves to extend his franchise-record winning streak to 11 games while boasting a 1.42 goals-against average during that span.

"Obviously, we've done some good things," Smith said. "I think we've improved, and this month has been good for us. We've moved up the standings drastically and we just have to keep pushing, keep going forward."

If Phoenix's recent success against Calgary is any indication, it has a solid chance of continuing its run. The Coyotes have beaten the Flames six straight times, including a 4-3 shootout victory last Thursday in which it rallied from a two-goal deficit.

Whitney had a goal and an assist in that contest, which marked Calgary's second defeat during a winless four-game homestand.

The Flames (28-24-11), who fell 3-1 to St. Louis on Monday, are fighting for one of the West's final playoff spots but have been outscored 18-9 over the last four.

Captain Jarome Iginla's only point over his last five games was an assist against the Coyotes.

"Nobody in our room has given up or thinking now we're done," Iginla said.

Though the Flames lost seven of 12 in February, they picked up at least one point in 10 games. Following Thursday's contest, Calgary will face Anaheim on Friday and Dallas on Sunday - two teams it's battling for a playoff spot.

David Moss, who has been out since injuring his ankle Nov. 12 and appears ready to return, said this upcoming stretch is crucial.

"You look at the teams around us and everyone seems to be winning and getting points," Moss said. "We need the points right now. We're just looking for two points in Phoenix and after that we'll move to Anaheim."

Miikka Kiprusoff, who will start Thursday, is 0-2-2 with a 3.95 GAA in his previous four starts after going 5-0-2 with a 1.67 GAA from Feb. 3-18. He's 0-3-1 with a 3.22 GAA in his last four starts against Phoenix.

Smith has won his three career starts versus Calgary with a 1.91 GAA.

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