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Ducks try to spoil Coyotes' playoff run

by John Kreiser

DUCKS (33-33-11) at COYOTES (38-27-13)

TV: KDOC; FS-Arizona (HD)

Last 10: Anaheim 4-5-1; Phoenix 5-2-3

Season Series : The Ducks come to the desert for the last of the six games between the Pacific Division rivals this season. Phoenix won the first two; Anaheim took the next three - but the teams haven't seen each other since the Ducks' 4-1 win at Arena exactly two moths ago.

Big Story: A lot has changed since the last time the teams met. The Coyotes went unbeaten in February after the loss to the Ducks and are in a battle for the Pacific Division title and a playoff berth. Anaheim, which was beginning a surge that carried the Ducks within four points of a playoff berth in late February, will be going home a week from today after a disappointing season.

Team Scope:

Ducks: Anaheim has won three of four and is 23-11-5 in its last 39 games, but that hasn't been enough to overcome an awful start. However, the Ducks haven't rolled over for anyone - just ask San Jose. The Ducks' 3-1 win against the Sharks on Wednesday was their fifth (all in regulation) in six games against San Jose this season - a big reason the Sharks are outside the top eight.

"These games we are just trying to finish strong and see what happens," forward Teemu Selanne said. "... It's a tough situation. But we are playing well."

Coyotes: After losing to Anaheim in their first game after the All-Star break, the Coyotes looked like a team in disarray. Instead, they went 11-0-1 in February to take over first place in the Pacific Division and have stayed near the top despite an erratic showing in March.

The Coyotes come into Saturday's game after beating San Jose 2-0 on Thursday, a game that saw Mike Smith make 38 saves and Radim Vrbata score twice.

"It's got to be a momentum game for us that makes us hungrier for that next game," said coach Dave Tippett, whose team hasn't won consecutive games the month. "We're going to have to play well the last four games to get ourselves in."

Who's Hot: At age 41, Selanne is the Ducks' leader with 64 points and third on the team with 25 goals - including one in each of Anaheim's last two games. … Phoenix center Ray Whitney has six points in the Coyotes' last five games, including assists on both of Vrbata's goals on Thursday. He needs one more point to become the 79th player in NHL history to reach 1,000 for his career.

Injury Report: Anaheim is missing defenseman Nate Guenin is out with facial injuries, and backup goaltender Dan Ellis is still sidelined with a groin injury. … Phoenix forward Taylor Pyatt is battling an upper-body injury.

Stat Pack: Jonas Hiller will set a franchise record if, as expected, he's in goal. The game will be Hiller's 71st this season. He's played in 37 of Anaheim's last 39 games, posting a 1.97 goals-against average in that span.

Puck Drop: His team is out of the playoff race, but Anaheim's Bobby Ryan has an individual goal he can accomplish. Two more goals will give him 30 in each of his first four full NHL seasons - a feat accomplished by only one other active player: Alex Ovechkin.

Not that he's obsessing about it.

"It's not something I'm thinking a lot about, but being able to reach that point every year for the first four seasons of a career would be a really cool thing," Ryan told the Ducks' website. "But it really hasn't weighed on my mind too much during this last little stretch. I'm starting to think about it more and how nice it would be, but it's really an afterthought."

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