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Coyotes challenge Flames to begin road trip

by Brian Hunter

COYOTES (23-17-9) at FLAMES (16-27-7)


Last 10: Phoenix 3-7-0; Calgary 2-7-1

Season series: This is the fourth of five games between the Phoenix Coyotes and Calgary Flames. The Coyotes hold a 2-1-0 advantage, with the home team winning each game. Mike Ribeiro leads all scorers with four points and had the game-winning goal in the Oct. 22 contest.

Big story: While one only spot in the Pacific Division standings separates these teams, the Coyotes remain on the cusp of the Stanley Cup Playoff picture and lead the Flames by 16 points. But while the wins haven't been coming of late, Calgary has put forth strong showings in consecutive 3-2 road losses to the Vancouver Canucks and San Jose Sharks, getting a point out of the former via the shootout.

Team Scope:

Coyotes: This is the start of a three-game road trip for Phoenix, which saw its bid to sweep a three-game homestand come up short Monday in a 4-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Coyotes trailed 3-0 after two periods before their specialty teams tried to rally them late, but a Mike Ribeiro power-play goal and Antoine Vermette shorthanded goal weren't enough.

Phoenix has scored only 12 goals in dropping five of its past seven games. Captain Shane Doan has just two assists during that span. The veteran forward returned Jan. 4 after missing a month due to a case of Rocky Mountain fever disease.

"He's slowly getting up to speed," Tippett said in the Arizona Republic. "I wouldn't say he's 100 percent yet, but he's slowly working toward that. He has lots of try, lots of push in him. He'll continue to move forward."

Flames: Thirty-two games remain in Calgary's season and a significant amount of the focus down the stretch will likely be spent on figuring out what pieces fit moving forward as the Flames attempt to rebuild into an annual postseason contender.

Veteran forward Matt Stajan is one player they've determined they want to keep around. The Flames signed the 30-year-old to a four-year extension worth a reported $12.5 million Monday. Stajan, who is closing in on his 700th NHL game, has seven goals and 17 points in 42 games this season.

"I want to be a part of what's going on here," Stajan said in the Calgary Herald. "We have a lot of promise with young guys. I want to see this through. With (general manager Brian Burke) coming in and running the ship right now and seeing what he's done with previous teams, I'd love to be a part of this. My family loves it in Calgary."

Who's hot: Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle has assisted on five goals during a four-game point streak. … Flames defenseman Mark Giordano has two goals and two assists during a four-game point streak.

Injury report: Phoenix forward Martin Hanzal (lower body) missed the game Monday and is day-to-day. … Calgary forward Mike Cammalleri (concussion) has missed the past five games. Forward Curtis Glencross (ankle) is on injured reserve.

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