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Hurricanes wrap up Western trip against Coyotes

by Corey Masisak

HURRICANES (13-13-7) at COYOTES (18-8-5)


Last 10: Carolina 5-3-2; Phoenix 4-4-2

Big story: The Hurricanes could have a chance to get some separation from the pack of teams competing for third place in the Metropolitan Division while the Coyotes are trying to keep pace with the Vancouver Canucks and Minnesota Wild for the wild card slots in the Western Conference.

Team Scope:

Hurricanes: Carolina has lost three in a row, but in the Metropolitan Division that isn't always a problem. The Hurricanes were in fourth place in the Metro after games played on Dec. 8. Three losses (two in overtime) in four days later and the Hurricanes were alone in third place in the division by two points.

The Hurricanes lost Cam Ward to injury for 11 games and dropped the first five of those contests in regulation. Since then, Carolina is 9-6-4, including victories against the San Jose Sharks, Anaheim Ducks and Colorado Avalanche. Ward is healthy again, Alexander Semin is back from a concussion and the Hurricanes have a chance to gain a better grasp on an automatic playoff position.

Carolina got one point in Thursday night but missed a chance for another when defenseman Chris Butler scored with 3.6 seconds left in overtime to give the Calgary Flames a 2-1 victory. Jeff Skinner's third-period goal forced overtime, but Skinner was stopped on a late penalty shot and Butler's goal gave the Flames the extra point.

"We knew we would have to work hard tonight because Calgary has been working hard here," coach Kirk Muller said afterwards. "We had a little lapse in the second, but I thought we really came on strong again in the third. The guys stayed with it. It's a big point when you come out West."

Coyotes: The situation is a little different in the Western Conference. Phoenix is 3-1-1 in its past five games and is in eighth place in the West, just where the Coyotes were before this five-game stretch. They remain ahead of the Vancouver Canucks because of two games in hand, though the Canucks have a three-game lead in non-shootout wins, which would be the first tiebreaker if they finished tied at the end of the season.

The Coyotes continue to produce offense at unexpected levels. They scored six goals in a win against the New York Islanders on Thursday. That gives them three six-goal games in the past 11 contests. They had four in the previous three seasons combined.

Phoenix has also dominated Eastern Conference teams. The 6-3 victory against the Islanders improved the Coyotes' record against the East to 8-1-1. Coach Dave Tippett said his team has to keep up with the rest of the Western Conference, which has dominated the East all season.

"It's about us and about us making sure we're staying in the pack in the West here," he said, according to "No matter who you play, you gotta get your points."

Who's hot: Skinner has seven goals in his past six contests for the Hurricanes. … Mike Ribeiro has nine points in his past six games for the Coyotes.

Injury report: Defensemen Mike Komisarek (lower body) and Joni Pitkanen (heel) are out for the Hurricanes, along with goaltender Anton Khudobin (lower body). Defenseman Brett Bellemore, who hasn't played since Dec. 3 because of a concussion, wore a normal jersey at practice Friday; he had been wearing a no-contact sweater. Forward Elias Lindholm left the game Thursday early with an injury and is questionable. … Coyotes captain Shane Doan has not played since Dec. 4 because of an unspecified illness. Defenseman Derek Morris has been away from the team for a personal matter but was expected back Friday (though the team did not practice). His status for Saturday is undetermined. Forward Lauri Korpikoski (upper body) remains out.

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