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'Canes look to finish strong vs. Coyotes

by John Kreiser /

COYOTES (17-13-3) at HURRICANES (10-18-6)

TV: None

LAST 10: Phoenix 4-6-0; Carolina 2-6-2

Season Series: It's the only meeting of the season between two teams that originally entered the NHL from the World Hockey Association. They haven't seen each other since last Oct. 23, when the Hurricanes went to Arena and won 4-3 in overtime.

Big Story: It's the second game in as many nights for the Coyotes, who come to Raleigh after a 2-1 victory at Florida. The Hurricanes also played their last game against the Panthers, but the outcome wasn't the same -- the 'Canes couldn't hold a 2-1 third-period lead and lost 3-2 in overtime.

Team Scope:

Coyotes: Maybe the hockey gods gave the Coyotes a break. After they lost 3-2 to the New York Rangers on Saturday in a game decided with :00.1 left on the clock, Phoenix was looking at another heartbreak on Tuesday when Florida's Stephen Weiss was awarded a penalty shot with 24.5 seconds remaining. Weiss deked and let go a backhander that backup goaltender Jason LaBarbera -- playing in relief after Mike Smith left with a third-period injury -- got just enough of the puck to keep it out of the net. The puck stopped on the goal line as LaBarbera slid into the net, and the Coyotes held on.

“That’s the hockey gods maybe paying us one back for the other night,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett quipped.

Hurricanes: Carolina has points in four of its last five games (2-1-2), but that's not nearly good enough for a team that's in danger of falling out of the playoff race. The 'Canes got a point at Florida, but could have had two if it could have protected a 2-1 lead late in the third period.

"When you go on the road and you play that well and you play a team that hasn't hardly lost in their rink, you've got to find ways to pick up a win," coach Kirk Muller said. "The next step we have to do is win these games."

Who's Hot: Ray Whitney, a former 'Cane, had a goal on Tuesday and has five points in his last four games. … Carolina's Tuomo Ruutu has three points in the Hurricanes' last two games.

Injury Report: Smith left early in the third period with a lower-body injury. Defenseman Adrian Aucoin is day-to-day with a lower-body injury; the same problem has kept defenseman Rostislav Klesla sidelined for more than two weeks. … Carolina is without its top scorer, Jeff Skinner, and top defenseman, Joni Pitkanen, due to concussions. Backup goaltender Brian Boucher is out with a lower-body injury.

Stat Pack: The Coyotes scored two power-play goals in Florida, the first time they did that since the season-opener in San Jose. … Phoenix is 11-1-1 when leading after the first period.

Puck Drop: Muller knows that with his team already 10 points out of eighth place, making the playoffs will be difficult if not impossible. For now, he's trying to focus on the little picture -- beating Phoenix and Ottawa to go into the holiday break on an upswing.

“We know where we are in the standings, but what we can control is our games,” he said Tuesday. “If we put two wins together here at home, we’re sitting – who knows? – five points out at Christmas.”


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