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At the Rink: Coyotes at Flames

by Aaron Vickers

CALGARY -- Forward Martin Hanzal returns to the lineup when the Arizona Coyotes close out a three-game road trip Thursday against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome (9 p.m. ET; FS-A, SNW).

Hanzal has missed seven straight games and 11 of the past 12 because of a lower-body injury.

"It's awesome. He definitely changes the whole locker room," said forward Anthony Duclair, who will skate on a line with Hanzal and Tobias Rider. "He's such a big piece of our team. He just brings that stability in the defensive zone and brings a lot of offense. It's good to have our big centerman back, for sure."

Arizona coach Dave Tippett doesn't plan on easing Hanzal back into the lineup.

"We eased him into practice for the last three days," Tippett said. "We skated him hard. He won't need to ease in tonight. He's good to go. Hopefully he jumps in there and gives us some quality minutes."

The Coyotes (19-16-4) are second in the Pacific and lead the fourth-place Flames by two points.

"It's a big game for our team," Tippett said. "You look at the division standings, last game of a road trip for us. With getting three out of four points so far on the road trip, you come in here and you get a win … that's a big test for us."

Five points separate Arizona and the seventh-place Edmonton Oilers in the Pacific.

"In our division teams are so tight," Duclair said. "When you're playing against these teams … obviously the Flames are hot at home, it's going to be a good one. We're pushing for a playoff spot at the end of the year and these points are huge for us.

"It's so tight and all the teams are playing well right now in our division. We want to make sure we are at our best when we are playing the same teams in our division."

Calgary (19-18-2) has won 11 of the past 15 games, and 12 of the past 14 at the Saddledome.

"It's pretty intense right now," forward Joe Colborne said. "We know down the stretch it's going to be … every game is going to be close, there is going to be a ton of three-point games and it's going to be hard to make moves and move up on anyone so it really shows how important points are prior to the All-Star break.

"It seems like every night you don't play you're dropping two or three spots and then if you get a big win you move up two or three spots and it all just starts following the same cycle. It's going to be exciting for the fans I know that, down the stretch. It would be nice to continue to play well and string some wins together."

Here are the projected lineups:

COYOTES

Max Domi - Antoine Vermette - Mikkel Boedker

Tobias Rieder - Martin Hanzal - Anthony Duclair

Jordan Martinook - Brad Richardson - Shane Doan

Kyle Chipchura - Boyd Gordon - Viktor Tikhonov

Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Connor Murphy

Klas Dahlbeck - Stefan Elliott

Nicklas Grossman - Michael Stone

Louis Domingue

Anders Lindback

Injured: Zbynek Michalek (upper body), Mike Smith (abdominal surgery), Joe Vitale (fractured orbital bone)

Scratched: Steve Downie, John Scott

FLAMES

Johnny Gaudreau - Sean Monahan - Joe Colborne

Sam Bennett - Markus Granlund - Mason Raymond

Micheal Ferland - Mikael Backlund - David Jones

Lance Bouma - Matt Stajan - Josh Jooris

Mark Giordano - TJ Brodie

Kris Russell - Dougie Hamilton

Dennis Wideman - Deryk Engelland

Karri Ramo

Jonas Hiller

Injured: Michael Frolik (upper body), Jiri Hudler (lower body)

Scratched: Ladislav Smid, Brandon Bollig

Status report: Both teams held optional skates Thursday. ... Forward Laurent Dauphin was reassigned to Springfield of the American Hockey League on Wednesday. Domingue will make his fifth consecutive start. … Engelland, a healthy scratch the past two games, moves into the lineup in place of Smid. Ramo will make his 11th straight start.

Who's hot: In six starts since Smith's injury, Domingue is 4-0-2 with a .939 save percentage. Doan has seven goals in his past four games. … Giordano, who was named to the Pacific Division roster for the 2016 Honda NHL All-Star Game, has four points during a three-game point streak and four goals and 11 points in his past eight games. Ramo has allowed five goals in his past four starts.

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