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Long road trip for Canes closes against Coyotes

by Brian Hunter
HURRICANES (3-3-0) at COYOTES (2-2-1)


Season Series:
It's the only meeting of the 2010-11 season between these cross-conference opponents. They last met on March 13, with Ilya Bryzgalov stopping all 29 shots he faced and Phoenix getting a pair of goals from Lee Stempniak and Martin Hanzal to win 4-0 in Carolina.

Big Story: The light at the end of the tunnel representing Carolina's seven-game road trip to begin the season is finally near. OK, technically the Hurricanes have played one "home" game, but it was in Helsinki, Finland, during a season-opening series against the Wild. After they got back to North America, they made stops in Ottawa, Vancouver, San Jose and Los Angeles, and after playing in Phoenix they'll finally return to Carolina for their first game at the RBC Center on Wednesday.

Team Scope:

Hurricanes: A victory Saturday would salvage a winning record out of this trip for Carolina and make it an undisputable success. The Hurricanes are sputtering a bit, though, having dropped three of four since returning to the U.S. following their sweep of the Wild. They beat the Sharks on Tuesday to open a back-to-back set and pulled into a 3-3 tie with the Kings the following night on 18-year-old Jeff Skinner's first NHL goal. But Andrei Lokitonov's goal 3:19 into the third sent the Canes to a 4-3 defeat.

"I don't look at it as an excuse, but I look at our situation that we're in," coach Paul Maurice said. "You wonder how much jam we were going to bring to the game tonight, because we've been halfway around the world on back-to-back nights. You hate losing, but I'm pretty impressed with the way 85 percent of our team played tonight."

Coyotes: It took almost two weeks for Phoenix to secure its second win of the season after the Coyotes blanked the Bruins in Prague to start their two-game set in the Czech Republic, but they accomplished the feat Thursday with a 4-2 win over the Kings on the strength of Stempniak's first career hat trick. Andrew Ebbett's shorthanded goal stood up as the game-winner as the team claimed an important two points against its Pacific Division rival.

"He'd been getting lots of chances the four games before," coach Dave Tippett said of Stempniak. "He was the leader on our team of actual scoring chances. It's good to see him get on the board."

Who's Hot:
Hurricanes captain Eric Staal (3-3-6) leads the team in scoring and has three multi-point efforts in his last four games. Chad LaRose has 2 goals and 4 points in the last two games. Skinner (1-3-4) is tied for second on the team in scoring. … Eric Belanger has 1 goal and 4 points in the last two games for the Coyotes.

Injury Report:
Hanzal is on injured reserve with a lower-body injury, while Phoenix captain Shane Doan will serve the second of a three-game suspension for an illegal hit.

Stat Pack:
Staal's goal Wednesday was the 196th of his career and tied him with Geoff Sanderson for fifth in the franchise history of the Hurricanes and Hartford Whalers. … Ebbett's shorthanded goal was the first of the season for the Coyotes, who have killed off 19 of 21 minor penalties against them.

Puck Drop:
During a preseason interview with, Tippett was talking about the team's leadership and mentioned veteran defenseman Ed Jovanovski in the same breath with Doan. Jovanovski showed why he's so highly-regarded by Tippett on Thursday with a 3-assist, plus-3 performance as Phoenix topped Los Angeles. He also wore the "C" in Doan's absence.

"It was a good gesture," Jovanovski told the Arizona Republic. "Coming into the room seeing it, we all know who the captain is of this organization. I think they felt the need for a few games for me to step in there, but I think we all have to lead by example while those guys are out for us."

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