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At the Rink: Coyotes at Devils

by Mike G. Morreale

NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils will look to build on a three-game winning streak and keep alive their slim hopes of qualifying for the Stanley Cup Playoffs when they play against the Arizona Coyotes at Prudential Center on Monday.

The Devils will play the fourth game of a six-game homestand. Goaltender Cory Schneider, the expected starter, is 3-1-1 with two shutouts, a 0.99 goals-against average and .962 save percentage in five career games against the Coyotes.

"We've been good since we got back home and have had three good games in a row so we have to keep that mentality," Schneider said. "We can't keep our foot off the gas or think we're just going to show up and win a game. We're not a team that can overlook anyone in this League.

"Arizona is in a tough spot this year but they have some talented players and some good guys on the back end. [Goalie] Mike Smith is playing better and he's capable of stealing games so we'll have to bear down."

The last time the Devils put together a streak of at least four straight victories was during the work-stoppage shortened 2012-13 season when they won five straight from Feb. 3-10, 2013.

"Every game is the most important game we play," Devils co-coach Lou Lamoriello said. "It's not about what we did yesterday but certainly success breeds success. I'm not looking at the standings right now."

New Jersey, which has outscored the opposition 8-4 during its three-game winning streak, trails the Boston Bruins by 10 points for the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference with 23 games remaining. They also need to leap three other teams in the playoff race.

"Minnesota [Wild] was out a few weeks ago and now they're in the playoffs," Schneider said. "You have to go on a run and hope for other teams to stumble or play .500 hockey. But you have to take care of your points in the end; we can't have a no-point game. What other teams do is out of our control."

The Coyotes open a stretch of three road games in four nights having lost a season-long five straight games in regulation. It's certainly not the best of times in Arizona right now. The Coyotes finds themselves 22 points behind the Wild for the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference with 23 games remaining, and a few of their marquee players have been rumored as possible targets leading up to the NHL Trade Deadline on March 2.

The list of possible players reportedly on the trading block include two-way center Antoine Vermette, and defensemen Keith Yandle and Zbynek Michalek.

Smith, the expected starter, is 3-0-2 with a 2.52 goals-against average and .926 save percentage in five career games against the Devils. Arizona has won its past three games against New Jersey.

What do the Coyotes need to do to end the losing streak?

"We can start by spending less time in our own zone by defending better," coach Dave Tippett said. "If we defend better, that means we can play more in the offensive zone and that's a big part of it. Our execution in the offensive zone, whether it's a cycle or battling down low, must improve."

Here are the projected lineups:

COYOTES

Lucas Lessio - Antoine Vermette - Shane Doan

Tobias Rieder - Mark Arcobello - Sam Gagner

Lauri Korpikoski - Kyle Chipchura - Martin Erat

Jordan Martinook - Joe Vitale - David Moss

Oliver Ekman-LarssonConnor Murphy

Keith YandleAndrew Campbell

Brandon GormleyMichael Stone

Mike Smith

Mike McKenna

Scratched: B.J. Crombeen

Injured: Mikkel Boedker (upper body), Martin Hanzal (upper body), Zbynek Michalek (upper body)

DEVILS

Tuomo Ruutu - Scott Gomez - Jaromir Jagr

Adam Henrique - Patrik Elias - Steve Bernier

Mike Cammalleri - Travis Zajac - Jordin Tootoo

Dainius Zubrus - Jacob Josefson - Stephen Gionta

Andy Greene - Adam Larsson

Jon Merrill - Marek Zidlicky

Eric Gelinas - Peter Harrold

Cory Schneider

Scott Clemmensen

Scratched: Michael Ryder, Mark Fraser, Martin Havlat

Injured: Keith Kinkaid (lower body), Damon Severson (fractured left ankle), Bryce Salvador (back), Ryane Clowe (concussion)

Status report: Kinkaid, who sustained a lower body injury and was replaced by Schneider in the second period of a 3-1 victory against the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday, attempted to skate Monday morning but could not. The Devils recalled Clemmensen from the American Hockey League and will use one of two goalie exemptions on Kinkaid, who is listed as day-to-day. … Michalek did not make the trip to New Jersey and Tippett said a determination will be made if he can join the team at some point this week. … The Coyotes recalled right-handed defenseman Dylan Reese from the Portland Pirates of the AHL on Monday. Reese will not play but will join the Coyotes for the road trip.

Who's hot: Yandle has 14 assists in the past 17 games, and is three short of tying Dave Babych (248 career assists) for third on the team's all-time list for defensemen. … Henrique has at least one point in three straight games, producing one goal and three points over that stretch.

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