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Coyotes, Ducks meet one last time

by Eric Goodman
COYOTES (35-23-11) at DUCKS (37-26-5)


Last 10: Phoenix 4-4-2; Anaheim 5-4-1.

Season series: This is the final game of the regular-season series between these Pacific Division clubs. Anaheim took three of the previous five meetings this season.

Big story: The bottom half of the Western Conference playoff standings is tightly bunched with all four teams boasting 81 points entering Saturday night's games. While Phoenix is one of those teams within that cluster, Anaheim (79 points) can join that group with a win at home on Sunday.

Team Scope:

Coyotes: Losing six of its last eight games isn't exactly what Phoenix was hoping for heading into the final stretch of the season, but winning two of their last three has kept the Coyotes competing for the final spots within the hotly-contested Western Conference.

A convincing 3-0 victory over the eighth-seeded Calgary Flames on Thursday was much needed as veteran goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov saved all 39 shots faced for his sixth shutout of the season.

"He was excellent," Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said about Bryzgalov following the game. "We probably gave up more chances than we like, but he was solid in all aspects."

Ducks: While Sunday's opponent has hit a slight rough patch, the Ducks have taken advantage with five wins in their last six games and are currently sitting on the fringe of a playoff spot. Anaheim is winning the games it needs heading into its final 14 games of the season, including a solid 6-2 victory over the struggling Avalanche on Friday. However, it took a while for the Ducks to get things going that game as they trailed Colorado 1-0 after the first period.

"These are all must-wins for us," said captain Ryan Getzlaf, who notched a goal and two assists on Friday. "We can't afford to take anybody lightly in this League and we were victims of that to start this game."

Who's hot: Coyotes captain Shane Doan notched an empty netter on Thursday and will attempt to extend his point streak to four games...Corey Perry will try to establish a three-game point streak as he has three goals and two assists total in scoring in each of his previous two games for the Ducks. Also, goalie Dan Ellis has filled in admirably for the injured Jonas Hiller with five wins in his last six starts for Anaheim.

Injury report: Phoenix will be without defenseman Ed Jovanovski (facial fractures), as well as forwards Ray Whitney and Martin Hanzal (lower body). Also, forward Rostislav Klesla missed Thursday's game with an upper-body injury. For Anaheim, Hiller remains out with vertigo symptoms, while forward Jason Blake has missed four straight games with a hand injury.

Stat pack: Coyotes goalie Ilya Bryzgalov has notched 20 shutouts since joining the Coyotes in the middle of the 2007-08 season. He is just one shy of tying Nikolai Khabibulin's franchise record.

Puck drop: The Ducks are focused on continuing their strong push towards the playoffs but know that even the slightest of slip ups can prove devestating with so few games remaining on the schedule.

"We can't afford to miss points when everybody else is winning around us," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said follwing Friday's win over the Avs. "That's the situation we're in. We can't afford to give up points at this point of the season."
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