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Coyotes, Canucks sorting out playoff position

by David Kalan /

COYOTES (17-15-6) at CANUCKS (21-11-6)


Last 10: Phoenix 4-4-2; Vancouver 8-2-0

Season series: The Phoenix Coyotes and Vancouver Canucks have split two games this season. The Canucks won the most recent meeting, 2-1, March 21 at Arena. This will be the final time Phoenix and Vancouver face each other in the 2012-13 regular season.

Big story: The Canucks are in a tight race for the Northwest Division crown with the Minnesota Wild, but the Coyotes are in a race of their own, fighting for position just outside the top eight in the Western Conference.

Team Scope:

Coyotes: Making their way into the top eight in the West is already an uphill climb for the Coyotes, but their remaining schedule does them no favors. Phoenix is in the mix for the West's final berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and with three straight wins -- two of which came against the Los Angeles Kings and Detroit Red Wings -- there's no reason to count the Coyotes out. But Phoenix is 4-8-5 away from the desert, and seven of the team's last 10 games will be on the road starting Monday night against Vancouver.

The Coyotes' game against the Canucks opens a three-game swing through Western Canada, which, after a brief stop at home next Monday, will be followed by a three-game swing through the Midwest. That kind of constant travel could wear on a team, but if Phoenix is to make the playoffs, the team is at least playing well prior to what is likely the most crucial juncture of its season.

Canucks: Vancouver doesn't play Minnesota again this season, but as the two teams jockey for position over their final 10 games, the Canucks are about to enter a stretch that could decide if they win a fifth-consecutive Northwest Division title. After playing Phoenix on Monday night, Vancouver will hit the road for a five-game road trip through Alberta and the Midwest in a span of eight days. The pitfalls of such a brutal travel schedule make the two points up for grab Monday night all the more important.

The Canucks have won eight of their past 10 games, but much of that was due to superior goaltending by Cory Schneider, who has re-established himself as the team's starter. For much of the past month Vancouver's offense has struggled, but after two big nights by Henrik Sedin, the Canucks appear to be scoring again, with nine goals over their past two games.

Who's hot: Coyotes forward Martin Hanzal has four points in the past two games. ... Sedin has two goals and three assists over the past two games.

Injury report: Coyotes forward Lauri Korpikoski (upper-body injury) and defenseman Zbynek Michalek (lower-body injury), who have missed several games, are questionable. … Canucks defenseman Keith Ballard (foot), who has been out for five games, is questionable. Forward Ryan Kesler (foot) is fully healed, and after participating in an optional team skate Saturday, he will return to the lineup Monday night.

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