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Coyotes continue trip with a visit to Buffalo

by Brian Hunter

COYOTES (9-5-3) at SABRES (12-7-0)


Last 10: Phoenix 6-2-2; Buffalo 6-4-0

Season Series: This is the only meeting of the season between these cross-conference opponents. Drew Stafford scored 3:12 into overtime to give Buffalo a 2-1 win in Phoenix when the teams last met on Jan. 8. Jordan Leopold had a power-play goal in regulation for the Sabres, who got a 33-save performance from Ryan Miller.

Big Story: Two franchises that have relied heavily upon their goaltenders to win games in recent seasons are doing so once again -- only they're not the names fans have come to identify with. After Ilya Bryzgalov left Phoenix for Philadelphia via free agency, unheralded Mike Smith has stepped in to fill the void. In Buffalo, a recent concussion suffered by Miller opened the door for young Jhonas Enroth to take the reins and shine.

Team Scope:

Coyotes: This marks the fourth stop on a five-game road trip for Phoenix, which was seconds away from gaining at least a point in each of the first three games before an unfortunate finish in Philadelphia on Thursday. Mikkel Boedker had scored 3:38 into the third period against Bryzgalov to create a 1-1 tie, and the Coyotes appeared set to force overtime when Matt Read jumped on a rebound and scored with 18.6 seconds left. The 2-1 defeat ruined a brilliant performance by Smith, who stopped 40 shots.

"It's frustrating that we give up late goals like that," coach Dave Tippett said. "It wasn't a great game by our team. We hung around the game (and) we had a chance to make points and it's disappointing we didn't."

Sabres: Enroth seems likely to appear in his sixth consecutive game and make his fourth straight start with Miller out and the relatively untested Drew MacIntyre serving as his backup. MacIntyre relieved Enroth in the third period of a loss to New Jersey on Wednesday, but bounced back in a big way Friday as Buffalo shut out Carolina, 1-0, getting a first-period power-play goal from Jason Pominville. Enroth was forced to make that slim margin hold up and he did, turning aside all 34 shots he faced.

"After a game when you play like that, you just want to get out there again," Enroth said. "I'm happy I got the start right after that game."

Who's Hot: Boedker has two goals and an assist in the Coyotes' last four games, while Smith lost Thursday in regulation for the first time since Oct. 20, ending a 7-0-2 run. … A pair of Sabres extended their points streaks to six games Friday as Pominville (3-5-8) scored the lone goal and Thomas Vanek (3-5-8) picked up the primary assist.

Injury Report: Phoenix defenseman Michal Rozsival (head) is on injured reserve, while forward Daymond Langkow is away from the team due to a death in the family. … Miller, defenseman Mike Weber (upper body) and forward Tyler Ennis (ankle) are out indefinitely for Buffalo. Forward Jochen Hecht is on injured reserve with a concussion. Forward Cody McCormick has missed the past two games for undisclosed reasons.

Stat Pack: Smith ranks sixth in the NHL with a .934 save percentage. His career best for a season is .916 in 2008-09 for the Lightning. … The Sabres blocked 21 shots in front of Enroth on Friday, including five by defenseman Tyler Myers.

Puck Drop: Buffalo leads the League with 21 sets of back-to-back games this season. To this point, the Sabres are 4-1 in the first half and 3-1 in the second half.

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