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Coyotes continue homestand by facing Sabres

by Eric Goodman

SABRES (14-30-8) at COYOTES (25-18-10)


Last 10: Buffalo 2-4-4; Phoenix 4-5-1

Season series: This is the second and final game between these cross-conference clubs. The Buffalo Sabres defeated the Phoenix Coyotes 2-1 in overtime on Dec. 23 in Buffalo, on a blooper-reel goal credited to Sabres defenseman Mark Pysyk. On that bizarre play, Coyotes forward Martin Hanzal knocked a loose puck into the back of his goalie Mike Smith's hockey pants and then Smith slid backward toward his goal unaware it was trapped in his equipment, surrendering the game-winner when the puck came loose and ended up in the net.

Big story: This will be the Coyotes' first home game since the team announced Wednesday they will officially be renamed the Arizona Coyotes at the start of the 2014-15 season. Coyotes center Mike Ribeiro is one goal away from reaching 200 in his NHL career.

The Sabres have been successful in Glendale recently, riding a three-game winning streak with their last loss at what is now known as Arena coming on Jan. 21, 2008.

Team Scope:

Sabres: Buffalo has lost seven of its past eight games (1-4-3) with just under a 1.75 goal differential, including a 5-4 overtime defeat at the Washington Capitals on Tuesday. While interim coach Ted Nolan's team has been keeping the games close, they have not yet found the right formula to get them over the hump and, with 36 points, remain last in the NHL.

Nolan was pleased with the Sabres' performance in the third period Tuesday as center Cody Hodgson tied the game with a backhander, but admitted he wants to see a more complete effort.

"To control the third period the way we did, you're happy at one point," Nolan said. "But on the other side, there's little parts of our game that we need to continue to work on and make corrections on. That was a big lesson learned in a bad situation."

Coyotes: Coach Dave Tippett's team will officially represent the entire state of Arizona next season due to the name change, but it will try to make one more Stanley Cup Playoff appearance playing as "Phoenix," based out of Glendale, Ariz. The Coyotes kicked off their five-game homestand with a 3-0 win against the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday, gaining two much-needed points against their fellow Western Conference competitor. Thomas Greiss, who earned the shutout, will get a second straight start.

The Coyotes will not change their uniforms next season, but will feature shoulder patches on the home and away uniforms to showcase the name "Arizona." Coyotes co-owner, president and CEO Anthony LeBlanc is excited his team will now play for the entire state as he explained at the press conference Wednesday.

"We want to be recognized as not just the hockey team for Glendale or Phoenix, but the team for the entire state of Arizona and the Southwest," LeBlanc said. "We hope that the name 'Arizona' will encourage more fans from all over the state, not just the valley, to embrace and support our team."

Who's hot: Hodgson has four goals and an assist in his past four games for the Sabres. … Coyotes center Antoine Vermette is in the midst of a five-game point streak with six goals and two assists over that span.

Injury report: Sabres forwards Cody McCormick (upper body), Kevin Porter (lower body) and Matt D'Agostini (upper body) are on injured reserve, although D'Agostini skated at practice Tuesday in a non-contact jersey. Forward Drew Stafford (upper body) is questionable after sustaining the injury at the Columbus Blue Jackets on Jan. 25. … The Coyotes reported no injuries as of Wednesday afternoon.

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