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Coyotes counting on Erat to provide spark

by Jerry Brown

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- New Phoenix Coyotes forward Martin Erat has scored one goal this season and news of his acquisition at the NHL Trade Deadline barely registered around the League compared to some of the other big names changing addresses Wednesday.

But the Coyotes are hoping that adding Erat from the Washington Capitals will have a ripple effect when the team makes a final push for a Western Conference playoff spot. That push begins Thursday against the Montreal Canadiens at Arena.

The Coyotes had an optional skate Thursday and coach Dave Tippett wouldn't say who he plans to play Erat with in his Phoenix debut. That might depend on whether center Martin Hanzal, who missed the 1-0 win against the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday and hasn't skated since, can play against Montreal.

Erat would make sense as a partner for fellow Czech forwards Hanzal and Radim Vrbata. The players know each other well, and Erat's pass-first mentality (23 assists) would give Hanzal and Vrbata the element they have been missing since Ray Whitney left as a free agent after the 2011-12 season.

"Playing against him when he was in Nashville for so many years, everyone in this room has a lot respect for the way [Erat] plays," Phoenix captain Shane Doan said. "To be able to add someone like that to our group is big. He holds on to the puck so long and he makes great plays. A lot of guys in our room had nightmares playing against him."

Defenseman Derek Morris, who sustained a scratch on his eye from a Vancouver player's stick in the first period Tuesday, was on the ice Thursday and is good to go.

The Coyotes sit one point behind the Dallas Stars for the final wild-card berth in the Western Conference. Dallas will play at home against the slumping Canucks on Thursday.

Montreal made one of the biggest deals Wednesday, getting Thomas Vanek from the New York Islanders on Wednesday. Vanek's offense (21 goals) will be a big boost to a Canadiens team that enters play Thursday second on the Atlantic Division, six points behind the division-leading Boston Bruins.

The Canadiens did not skate Thursday morning following a 4-3 shootout win against the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday. Defenseman Josh Gorges returned to Montreal for further examination of a hand injury he sustained against the Ducks.

Canadiens goalie Carey Price remains out with a lower-body injury. Peter Budaj, who sat out the Anaheim game, will start in goal.

Here are the projected lineups for the Canadiens and Coyotes:


Max Pacioretty - David Desharnais - Brendan Gallagher

Brian Gionta - Tomas Plekanec - Alex Galchenyuk

Thomas Vanek - Daniel Briere - Rene Bourque

Travis Moen - Ryan White - Dale Weise

Mike Weaver - P.K. Subban

Alexei Emelin - Andrei Markov

Douglas Murray - Jarred Tinordi

Peter Budaj

Dustin Tokarski

Scratched: Francis Bouillon, Lars Eller, George Parros

Injured: Carey Price (lower body), Michael Bournival (concussion), Brandon Prust (upper body), Josh Gorges (hand)


Mikkel Boedker - Antoine Vermette - Shane Doan

Martin Erat - Mike Ribeiro - Radim Vrbata

Lauri Korpikoski - Jeff Halpern - David Moss

Rob Klinkhammer - Kyle Chipchura - Paul Bissonnette

Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Zbynek Michalek

Keith Yandle - Derek Morris

David Schlemko - Michael Stone

Mike Smith

Thomas Greiss

Injured: Martin Hanzal (lower body)

Scratched: Brandon McMillan, Chris Summers

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