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Coyotes finally home, get Bryzgalov back

by Jerry Brown /
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- After playing 20 of their first 34 games on the road -- including the last six in a row over an 11-day period wrapped around the Christmas holiday -- the Coyotes have a chance to make the most of a decent turn in the schedule that starts tonight against Anaheim at Arena.

The Coyotes will play 10 of the next 16 games at home, but will have to improve upon their 6-4-4 record in Glendale to climb back into a Western Conference playoff spot. A win tonight would move them ahead of the Ducks, who are finishing a seven-game road trip of their own before returning home for six straight.

The Coyotes went 2-3-1 on the trip and were able to sneak out a 1-0 win in Dallas on Sunday thanks to a 29-save shutout performance by backup goalie Jason LaBarbera and a second-period goal from Kyle Turris. Starter Ilya Bryzgalov, who has missed the last five games with an upper body injury, will be back Tuesday -- just in time to face the Anaheim team that placed him on waivers three years ago.

Since being claimed by Phoenix, Bryzgalov has 10 wins and three shutouts against his old team, including a 3-0 win in Anaheim on Dec. 5. The Coyotes will be without wingers Taylor Pyatt (upper-body injury) and Radim Vrbata (lower-body injury), but both players were able to skate Tuesday and could be ready to return soon.

While Bryzgalov was out, LaBarbera went 2-2-1 -- but it was the Phoenix offense that went south during the trip. The Coyotes were shut out in New Jersey on Dec. 15 and scored just once in each of the final three games, losing 6-1 in Pittsburgh and 4-1 in San Jose before winning in Dallas.

This is the third in a string of four straight games pitting the Coyotes against each of their Pacific Division rivals. Phoenix lost in San Jose on Dec. 23 before rebounding in Dallas Monday, and the Coyotes host the Kings on Wednesday in a rare midweek, back-to-back set at home that could get them going again. The last time Phoenix played back-to-back games at home (Nov. 12-13), the Coyotes swept Calgary and St. Louis to jump-start a seven-game winning streak.
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