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Coyotes, Stars fighting for points in packed West

by Adam Kimelman
COYOTES (36-26-11) at STARS (39-28-5)


Last 10: Coyotes 3-5-2, Stars 7-2-1

Season series: This is the sixth and final regular-season meeting between the Pacific Division rivals. The Stars won the first two games, but the Coyotes have won the last three, most recently a 2-1 overtime win in Phoenix.

Big Story:
Will anyone emerge in the jam-packed Pacific Division? The Coyotes and Stars are two of the four teams separated by just one point in the division race.

Team Scope:

Coyotes: With the Western Conference playoff picture clogged with teams separated by so few points, every game becomes extra important. So for the Phoenix Coyotes, pulling out Sunday's 3-2 shootout win in Edmonton was of vital importance.

"Every game matters so much for us right now," Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle told the Associated Press. "If we had played loose and the way the Oilers wanted to play, then we would have lost by a lot of goals. We fumbled it around a bit in the first period, but I think we played our game more as the game wore on. We were able to work them down low and find a way to win."

The Coyotes trailed 2-0 after two periods, but rallied to tie the game on goals by Ray Whitney and Raffi Torres. Whitney then scored the deciding goal in the shootout.

"We were down and we knew we needed to fly some guys out of the zone to see if we could grab some advantage," Tippett said of the game-tying goal. "Torres is an interesting player. He finds those opportunities. He can play erratic in a good way and he can shoot the puck really well. He made a great shot. It was a huge goal for us."

Stars: It appears the Stars are getting healthy bodies back in the lineup at the perfect time.

Radek Dvorak, who has missed the last three games with an ankle injury, was on the ice for Monday's practice, as was defenseman Sheldon Souray, who has been out for four games due to a charley horse.

"They're both probable for (Tuesday), '' Stars coach Glen Gulutzan told the Dallas Morning News. "Until I check to see how they feel (Tuesday) morning after today ... I can't say see why they would be out. … I think they'll be in. They're still a little banged up, but it's nothing that's going to get worse now, it's just something they're going to play with regardless. So unless the injury happens again, they're healthy, for all intents and purposes."

Who's Hot: Coyotes forward Ray Whitney has a four-game point-scoring streak, with a goal and 5 assists in that span. … In his last nine games, Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen is 8-1-1, and has allowed just 16 goals.

Injury Report:
The Coyotes could be without Radim Vrbata (illness) and defenseman Adrian Aucoin (lower body). … With Dvorak and Souray expected to play, the Stars are fielding a healthy lineup.

Stat Pack:
Whitney not only leads the team in scoring with 67 points, he leads all Western Conference forwards with a plus-24 rating.

Puck Drop: Michael Ryder's goal March 10 was his 30th of the season, the first time in five seasons he's reached that number.

It's the third time he's hit that milestone, but the first time since the 2006-07 season, when he was with the Montreal Canadiens. Ryder told the team's website he knew right when the puck went in that he was back at that level.

"Yeah, obviously I knew it was 30," he said. "It's nice and everything but just happy to be helping the team and doing what I can."

Signed over the summer after winning the Stanley Cup last season with the Boston Bruins, Ryder has fit seamlessly into the Dallas lineup.

"I think it's been a real good fit," Gulutzan told the team's website. "We brought in quality individuals. They all brought in pieces of the puzzle that we were missing. Ryds (Ryder) brought a guy who can put the puck in the net and a right shot, something that we needed here. Our guy Joe (Nieuwendyk, GM) has done a heck of a job in addressing needs."
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