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Coyotes to start Greiss vs. slumping Penguins

by Brian Hunter

COYOTES (34-26-12) at PENGUINS (46-20-5)


Last 10: Phoenix 6-3-1; Pittsburgh 5-4-1

Season series: This is the second and final game between the Phoenix Coyotes and Pittsburgh Penguins. Mike Ribeiro had a goal and an assist to lead the Coyotes to a 3-1 win at Arena on Feb. 1.

Big story: The Coyotes look to bounce back after managing one point out of their game Monday at the New York Rangers, blowing 2-0 and 3-2 leads before falling 4-3 in overtime. But the far more damaging loss might have come when workhorse goalie Mike Smith left in the third period with a lower-body injury.

Smith is considered day-to-day and the Coyotes have recalled Mark Visentin from the American Hockey League.

The Penguins learned of another significant injury Tuesday when it was announced forward Evgeni Malkin will miss 2-3 weeks with a foot injury. They can clinch a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a win, or with a loss and some help.

Team Scope:

Coyotes: Backup goalie Thomas Greiss had become something of a forgotten man with Phoenix in a tight battle for the Western Conference's second wild-card berth. But he'll be called upon in an important game in a tough building.

Smith's start Monday was his 12th in a row and 61st in 72 games this season. Greiss stopped seven of nine shots after entering with 7:34 left in regulation. It was his first appearance since Feb. 28 against the Colorado Avalanche. His last win was a shutout of the Los Angeles Kings on Jan. 30.

"He was scheduled to play," Tippett said of Greiss. "That won't change."

The Coyotes' lead over the Dallas Stars was cut to a single point after the Stars edged the Winnipeg Jets 2-1 on Monday. The Stars also play again Tuesday, when they visit the Chicago Blackhawks.

Penguins: Dating back to a home-and-home series with the rival Philadelphia Flyers, it's been a bit of a struggle for Pittsburgh, which is 2-3-1 over its past half-dozen games.

"We're trying to get better," defenseman Matt Niskanen said. "We've been making some adjustments. We're addressing things. We come to the rink to work, to compete."

This is the continuation of a four-game homestand that has seen the Penguins edge the Tampa Bay Lightning in overtime before dropping a 1-0 decision to the St. Louis Blues on Sunday, a game in which goalie Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 26 shots but got no support on the scoreboard.

"We still have a good amount of games left to get it together. I was proud of how we played the last two games," defenseman Rob Scuderi said.

Who's hot: Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson has goals in consecutive games and a four-game point streak overall. Fellow defenseman Keith Yandle has one goal and 12 assists in 14 games since the Olympic break.

Injury report: Phoenix defenseman David Schlemko (foot) is out indefinitely, while Smith (lower body) is day-to-day. … Malkin (foot) is sidelined for Pittsburgh along with goalie Tomas Vokoun (blood clot), defensemen Kris Letang (stroke) and Paul Martin (foot) and forwards Pascal Dupuis (knee) and Chris Conner (hand).

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