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Coyotes after important two points against Sabres

by Brian Hunter

COYOTES (19-10-6) at SABRES (9-24-3)


Last 10: Phoenix 4-4-2; Buffalo 4-4-2

Season series: This is the first of two games between the Phoenix Coyotes and Buffalo Sabres. They face off for the first time since Nov. 19, 2011, when Mike Smith stopped 43 shots, Radim Vrbata scored a pair of goals and Paul Bissonnette had the game-winner as Phoenix won 4-2 in Buffalo.

Big story: Currently the No. 9 seed in the Western Conference, the Coyotes are after an important two points Monday and can't afford to overlook a Sabres team that despite having the fewest points in the NHL has made strides of late and won consecutive games before dropping the back end of a home-and-home Saturday to the Boston Bruins.

Team Scope:

Coyotes: This is the finale of a four-game road trip for Phoenix, which snapped a three-game losing streak Saturday afternoon with a come-from-behind 4-3 overtime win against the Ottawa Senators. The Coyotes had scored just a single goal in each of those defeats, but found an offensive spark in the form of Antoine Vermette.

The veteran forward, a longtime Senator, recorded a hat trick as the Coyotes erased a two-goal deficit. Vermette's power-play goal with 2:13 left in regulation knotted the score and he struck again at 2:23 of the extra period. Vrbata also scored and Smith made 37 saves.

"When you're in a little bit of a slide it's a character win when you're down," defenseman Keith Yandle said. "Everyone did a good job getting into it and trying to get the win. There was a lot of desperation in the third when we were trying to find ourselves a goal and get back into the game. When it's crunch time it amps up a little bit but it's fun."

Sabres: Not only did Buffalo's 4-2 win against Boston at First Niagara Center on Thursday give the Sabres consecutive victories for only the second time this season, it was a huge statement knocking off the top team in the Atlantic Division.

Going for the sweep Saturday in Boston and a three-game winning streak, the Sabres were undone by an inability to convert on six power-play opportunities, including a 5-on-3 for 1:49 midway through the second period and another two-man advantage in the third negated by a Buffalo penalty.

"It's disappointing," forward Ville Leino told the Buffalo News, "because we've been playing so good and we didn't give our best."

Who's hot: Mikkel Boedker has three goals and three assists in the past six games for the Coyotes. … Matt Moulson has two goals and one assist in the past four games for the Sabres.

Injury report: Phoenix defenseman Zbynek Michalek (lower body) and forward Shane Doan (illness) are on injured reserve. … Buffalo forward Cody Hodgson (upper body) is day-to-day. Forward Cody McCormick (upper body) is on injured reserve.

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