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Coyotes must deal with surging Ducks

by Brian Hunter
DUCKS (18-23-7) at COYOTES (22-20-8)


Last 10:
Anaheim 8-1-1; Phoenix 3-3-4

Season Series:
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.

Big Story:
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.

Team Scope:

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."

Coyotes: 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.

Injury Report:
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.

Stat Pack:
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.

Puck Drop:
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."
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