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Hurricanes-Coyotes Preview

GAME: Carolina Hurricanes (16-7-2) at Phoenix Coyotes (13-12-2).

TIME: Saturday, 9 p.m. EST.

After getting off to the best start in franchise history, the Hurricanes are starting to struggle.

Carolina looks to bounce back from its first shootout loss of the season when they continue their season-high six-game road trip against the Phoenix Coyotes.

The Hurricanes lost 5-4 Friday in a shootout to the Dallas Stars. Cory Stillman and Justin Williams scored in the third period to send the game into overtime for Carolina.

"Take the point and run out of here," said coach Peter Laviolette, whose team is 2-1 in shootouts. "We had way too many guys not working. The game itself was not good by our standards."

The loss was the fifth in seven games for the Hurricanes, who started the season 14-3-1. Carolina has been outscored 30-22 over its last seven games, including a 4-3 shootout win Nov. 25 the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Hurricanes' lead in the Southeast Conference has shrunk to one point over the surging Tampa Bay Lightning.

"Horrible start," Carolina's Rod Brind'Amour said. "I don't know how to explain it. We're giving up way too many easy goals. You can't do that and expect to come back every time."

Defenseman Glen Wesley left the game in the third period after being accidentally hit in the face by a stick and may not be available for this contest.

The Coyotes lost for just the second time in six games, falling 6-1 Wednesday to the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. Joffrey Lupul scored the lone goal for Anaheim, which lost by more than two goals for just the second time this season.

The Coyotes were outshot 35-17 and went 0-for-7 on the power play.

"I was more disappointed at the first few power plays than the breakdowns we had on a couple of their goals," Gretzky said. "We were not hungrier for the puck and didn't give ourselves more opportunities."

Phoenix will welcome center Petr Nedved and defenseman Derek Morris back to the lineup. Nedved missed three games with a mild concussions while Morris has been sidelined since Nov. 22 with bruised ribs.

STANDINGS (through Dec. 2): Hurricanes - 34 points, 1st place, Southeast Division. Coyotes - 28 points, 3rd place, 7 PB, Pacific Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Hurricanes - Eric Staal, 18 goals, 18 assists and 36 points; Mike Commodore, 49 PIM. Coyotes - Mike Leclerc, 9 goals; Ladislav Nagy, 16 assists and 24 points; Sean O'Donnell, 59 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Dec. 2): Hurricanes - Power play: 18.4 percent (30 for 163), 11th (tied) in NHL. Penalty killing: 78.7 percent (111 for 141), 28th. Coyotes - Power play: 18 percent (32 for 177), 14th. Penalty killing: 82.2 percent (134 for 163), 17th (tied).

GOALTENDERS: Hurricanes - Martin Gerber (10-6-0, 2 SO, 2.54 GAA); Cam Ward (6-2-1, 3.67). Coyotes - Curtis Joseph (11-7-0, 2, 2.12); David Leneveu (2-5-2, 3.20).

2003-04 SEASON SERIES: Stars, 1-0.

LAST MEETING: Jan. 4, 2004; Stars, 3-0. At Raleigh, N.C., Branko Radivojevic had three assists and Brian Boucher stopped 26 shots for the Coyotes.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Hurricanes - 7-3-2 on the road; Coyotes - 7-5-1 at home.

Associated Press

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