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At the Rink: Flames at Coyotes

by Jerry Brown

GLENDALE, Ariz. – If the Arizona Coyotes are going to join the Western Conference playoff chase, they have to stop leaving points behind on home ice.

The Coyotes will look to snap a four-game losing streak (0-2-2) at Gila River Arena against the Calgary Flames on Saturday. But it's the way they have been losing these tight, one-goal games that have hurt:

* Nov. 8 against the New York Islanders: Frans Nielsen of New York broke up a scoreless game with 2:31 left to play for a 1-0 win.

* Nov. 11 against the Dallas Stars: With a chance to win the game with a late power play, the Coyotes allowed Ryan Garbutt to go end-to-end on a game-winning shorthanded goal with 1:16 left for a 4-3 win.

* Nov. 18 against the Washington Capitals: The Coyotes held Washington to one goal in regulation, but Eric Fehr's overtime winner stole the extra point with a 2-1 victory.

* Nov. 25 against the Colorado Avalanche: The Coyotes blew a 3-0 first period lead, and the game-tying and game-winning goal for Colorado each came off Arizona deflections for a 4-3 win in overtime.

That's eight points up for grabs in the final minutes or overtime, and six have slipped through Arizona's fingers. Coach Dave Tippett feels a big reason is the lack of offensive pressure or zone time the Coyotes have generated, leaving them defending far too much during tight games.

"If you spend too much time in your own zone, eventually bad things are going to happen," Tippett said. "We need to spend more time in the offensive zone. To do that we have to control pucks better, we have to have the patience to hold on to pucks longer and the skill to make good plays."

Coyotes goalie Mike Smith took all four losses, dropping his record to 4-11-2. Tippett will turn to backup Devan Dubnyk, who is an impressive 5-0-1 with a 2.34 goals-against average this season, against the Flames

"[Smith] is as frustrated as anyone right now," Tippett said. "He's not winning, and it seems like there is a fluky goal here and a fluky goal there that he just can't get on top of it. He's fighting to get the job done and it's tough when bad breaks go against you."

The Coyotes will give yet another young player a chance to make an impact. Forward Brendan Shinnimin was called up from the Portland Pirates of the American Hockey League and will make his NHL debut Saturday on a line with veterans Sam Gagner and Martin Erat. The undrafted free agent has a team-leading 10 assists with the Pirates to go with four goals and the Coyotes are looking for all the offense they can find.

"He's played very well in Portland. He brings a lot of energy and he's a very quick and determined player," Tippett said. "We're still trying to find that mix in our lineup that gives us the best chance and he's earned an opportunity to have a look."

Goalie Karri Ramo, who is 5-2-1 with 2.56 GAA will start for the Flames. Ramo is looking for his fourth straight win and has won each of his previous starts against Arizona, allowing three goals in the two games.

The Coyotes have been tough for Calgary to defeat at Gila River Arena. Arizona is 9-1-0 against the Flames since Tippett took over as coach and the Coyotes have won four straight.

Here are the projected lineups:


Curtis Glencross - Sean Monahan - David Jones

Johnny Gaudreau - Josh Jooris - Jiri Hudler

Michael Ferland - Markus Granlund - Paul Byron

Brandon Bollig - Lance BoumaBrian McGrattan

Mark Giordano - TJ Brodie

Kris Russell - Dennis Wideman

Raphael Diaz - Deryk Engelland

Karri Ramo

Jonas Hiller

Scratched: Sven Baertschi, Corban Knight, Ladislav Smid

Injured: Sam Bennett (shoulder surgery), Mikael Backlund (abdominal procedure), Joe Colborne (upper body), Matt Stajan (knee), Mason Raymond (shoulder).


Lauri KorpikoskiAntoine VermetteMikkel Boedker

Tobias RiederMartin HanzalShane Doan

Brendan ShinniminSam GagnerMartin Erat

Brandon McMillan - Joe VitaleB.J. Crombeen

Oliver Ekman-LarssonZbynek Michalek

Keith YandleMichael Stone

Chris SummersConnor Murphy

Devan Dubnyk

Mike Smith

Scratched: Kyle Chipchura, Rob Klinkhammer, David Schlemko

Injured: David Moss (hand), Brandon Gormley (lower body)

Status report: Tippett said Moss, who has been out since Oct. 23 with a hand injury, could be back by next week. Moss has been skating for several weeks and took part in his first full practice Saturday. … Gormley skated briefly Saturday for the first time since sustaining a lower-body injury against the Edmonton Oilers on Nov. 16. He is still a while from returning. … These two teams will meet again in Calgary on Tuesday.

Who's hot: The Coyotes are 6-2-0 against the Pacific Division this season, although the Flames have one of the two wins. … Yandle needs four assists to tie Randy Carlyle for fourth place on the franchise's all-time assist list with 226. … Hudler has scored in three straight games for the Flames and has accounted for half of their goals (four of eight) during that stretch. … The Flames are 8-5-0 in 13 road games. They didn't win their eighth road game last season until Jan. 6.

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