DUCKS (18-23-7) at COYOTES (22-20-8)
TV: PRIME (HD), FS-A (HD)
Anaheim 8-1-1; Phoenix 3-3-4
Fifth of six meetings between these Pacific Division rivals, with the series all even after Anaheim won the two most recent matchups. Niklas Hagman
has 3 goals to lead the Ducks, while Martin Hanzal
has 3 goals to pace the Coyotes.
When the Ducks relieved Randy Carlyle of his duties on Nov. 30 and replaced him with Bruce Boudreau, they undoubtedly were hoping their new coach could pull off a turn of events similar to what happened five years earlier when he took over a struggling Capitals team and led them to the Southeast Division title. Anaheim is finally rolling under Boudreau -- the only question is whether it took too long. The Ducks are still 12 points out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference and have 34 games left to make up the necessary ground.
With a four-game homestand awaiting to begin the month of February, first Anaheim must take care of business on the road against a division rival also on the outside of the playoff race looking in, and needing to pick up its play. The Ducks walloped the Coyotes 6-2 when they last met on Jan. 18, part of an 8-0-1 run, but that came to an end in the final game prior to the All-Star break as Jonas Hiller
was beaten by Alex Goligoski late in the first period of a 1-0 loss to the Stars.
"It's a tough loss," said Hiller, who stopped the other 15 shots he faced. "Especially against Dallas, who's just a couple of points ahead of us. It was a four-point night."
Having lost its previous five games that were decided by a single goal, Phoenix finally came out on the right end of a close one against Ottawa last Tuesday, making the ensuing time off that much more enjoyable. Radim Vrbata
's team-leading 23rd goal early in the third gave the Coyotes a 3-1 lead and they held off a solid Senators squad that is in playoff position in the East to record a 3-2 victory. Gilbert Brule
and Shane Doan
also scored, and Mike Smith
stopped 32 shots.
"In my history with this team, one-goal games were our forte," defenseman Adrian Aucoin
said. "We've taken a lot of pride in it. It got us to the playoffs twice. This year, it's been tough on us and when you're down by a goal it's hard hockey. It's nice to pull one off like that and we're going to need more."
Who's Hot: Bobby Ryan
has 6 goals and 4 assists over his last 10 games for the Ducks. Hiller is 5-1-1 over his last seven games with a 1.29 goals-against average and .954 save percentage. … Ray Whitney
has 1 goal and 5 assists over his last five games for the Coyotes. Doan has 3 goals and 2 assists during the same span. Brule has 3 goals in seven games since being called up.
Anaheim goalie Dan Ellis
(groin), defenseman Matt Smaby (thumb) and forward Devante Smith-Pelly
(foot) are on injured reserve. … Phoenix defenseman Derek Morris
missed the last game prior to the break with a lower-body injury. Defenseman David Schlemko
(foot) is on injured reserve.
The Ducks' special teams have been clicking during their hot streak, with the power play 5-for-its-last-15 (33 percent) and the penalty kill successful on 35 of its last 39 attempts (89.7 percent). … Aucoin returned to the Coyotes' lineup from a four-game injury absence and recorded 25:26 of ice time against the Senators, in addition to team highs of five shots and five hits.
Phoenix has made the playoffs in consecutive seasons since Dave Tippett became coach, the first time the franchise accomplished the feat in over a decade, but extending the run to three in a row won't be easy.
"I think for us to put a push on after the break, we're going to have to come back and be a lot better team," Tippett told the Arizona Republic. "We're going to have to have individuals play better. We're going to have to play better as a group to give ourselves the best chance of being a playoff team."