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Canucks begin road trip against surging Coyotes

by Davis Harper

CANUCKS (10-5-1) at COYOTES (10-3-2)


Last 10: Vancouver 7-2-1; Phoenix 7-1-2

Season series: This is the first of five meetings between the Vancouver Canucks and Phoenix Coyotes. The Canucks are 4-0-1 over their past five meetings at Arena, including a 2-1 win in the most recent encounter on March 21.

Big story: The word of the day is momentum, and both the Canucks and Coyotes have plenty of it. These new Pacific Division opponents are separated by one point in the standings, and Phoenix (22 points) and Vancouver (21) are both riding hot streaks ahead of the game Tuesday.

The Coyotes edged division leaders San Jose Sharks, 3-2 in a shootout, for their fourth straight victory Saturday. Hours before, the Canucks dismantled the then-Eastern Conference-leading Toronto Maple Leafs for their fourth win in five games.

Team scope:

Canucks: Vancouver starts a four-game road trip in Phoenix, which shouldn’t bother the Canucks much. Only the Colorado Avalanche have a better away record than Vancouver (6-2-1), one the Canucks accrued largely over a season-long seven-game road swing from Oct. 15-25.

Much of Vancouver’s success is due to the top line of Ryan Kesler and the freshly re-signed twin brothers Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin. Since coming together 10 games ago, the line has combined for 14 goals and 18 assists. That line scored the first goal against Toronto – a rare power-play tally – setting the tone for the dominating 4-0 victory that would ensue.

"It was a great performance from the first minute to the last," said goaltender Roberto Luongo. "We really kept the puck in their zone and cycled and created some chances and were in there pretty much the whole game."

Coyotes: The Canucks may be a force on the road, but the Coyotes are nearly unstoppable at home. Phoenix has more wins at home than any team; the Coyotes are an impressive 6-0-1 at Arena.

That’s not to say the Coyotes can’t win on the road, something they proved on Saturday in San Jose. Mike Smith made 48 saves and Antoine Vermette scored in regulation and the shootout to help Phoenix hand the Sharks their first home loss. Coyotes coach Dave Tippett set a franchise record for wins with 166.

"It's a huge win against an upper echelon team in the League," Smith said. "I think we can gain some confidence from a game like that. We weren't really thrilled with the way we played, but I think we grounded it out Coyote ugly and found a way to get the two points, and that's all that matters."

Who’s hot: Goaltending has played a large role in each of these teams’ recent success. Smith leads the League with 388 saves, including 89 stops on 92 shots over the past two games. Luongo pitched a shutout against the Maple Leafs (his second of the season) and has conceded more than two goals five times in 13 season starts.

Injury report: Canucks left wing David Booth (lower body) will miss 1-2 weeks. Center Jordan Schroeder (sprained ankle) and wingers Jannik Hansen (upper body) and Dale Weise (lower body) are on injured reserve. … Coyotes defenseman David Schlemko (lower body) is questionable, while center Jeff Halpern (back) is on injured reserve. Defenseman Rostislav Klesla (lower body) has been activated from injured reserve.

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