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Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Phoenix Coyotes @NHLdotcom
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GAME: Pittsburgh Penguins (11-42-5-4) at Phoenix Coyotes (20-24-15-3).

TIME: Wednesday, 9 p.m. EST.

The Pittsburgh Penguins continue negative streaks with every game. A matchup with the Phoenix Coyotes gives them a chance for another.

Pittsburgh will try to avoid having its winless streak extended to a franchise-record 19 games when it faces the Coyotes, who will be playing their first game under interim coach Rick Bowness.

Pittsburgh's latest defeat - a 6-3 home loss to Ottawa on Sunday - was its 18th in a row. Although 18 straight losses has never been accomplished before in the NHL, it isn't counted as a league record because of an overtime loss Feb. 14 in St. Louis. The 17-game losing streaks by the 1975 Washington Capitals and the 1993 San Jose Sharks included only regulation losses.

While the 18 consecutive losses will not go down as a league record, the Penguins did extend the NHL's longest home losing streak to 14 - three more than any other team in league history.

Pittsburgh's 18-game winless streak is 12 off the NHL record of 30 set by Winnipeg in 1980-81, but ties the team record (0-17-1), set from Jan. 2-Feb. 10, 1983.

"If you start looking at that, you'll lose focus," defenseman Brooks Orpik said. "You can get so caught up in it, it becomes a distraction. I'm just disappointed that we keep making the same mistakes over and over."

The Coyotes are on the verge of falling completely out of the playoff race in the Western Conference, which led to the firing of head coach Bob Francis on Tuesday.

Francis, 165-144-60-21 in five seasons with Phoenix, leaves the team as the franchise leader in wins, win percentage and games coached.

"We felt it was time for a change in that direction," Coyotes general manager Michael Barnett said. "Sometimes, good coaches get replaced. Bob is a good coach and we wish him all the best in the future."

Bowness is in his fifth season as an assistant with the Coyotes. He previously served as head coach with four NHL teams, including Winnipeg (1988-89), Boston (1991-92), Ottawa (1992-96) and the New York Islanders (1996-1998).

The Penguins haven't won since a 2-1 victory at Philadelphia on Jan. 12, getting outscored 83-40 during the 18-game skid. They haven't won in their last seven trips to Phoenix (0-5-2), dating to Feb. 16, 1996.

Rookie goalie Andy Chiodo is expected to make his third NHL start Wednesday for Pittsburgh. Chiodo has allowed a combined six goals in losses to the New York Islanders and Florida.

The Coyotes have won just two of their last 14 games (2-9-2-1) and are 13th in the West. Their biggest problem is a 10-13-5-2 home record, which is the worst in the conference and better than only Pittsburgh and Washington in the NHL.

Daymond Langkow scored short-handed and Brian Boucher stopped 23 shots as Phoenix skated to a 1-1 tie against visiting Anaheim on Monday.

Coyotes captain Shane Doan, the team leader with 39 assists and 60 points, has just one goal in his last 11 games.

STANDINGS (through Feb. 23): Penguins - 31 points, 5th place, 49 PB, Atlantic Division. Coyotes - 58 points, 5th place, 18 PB, Pacific Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Penguins - Ryan Malone, 18 goals; Dick Tarnstrom, 23 assists and 34 points; Kelly Buchberger, 109 PIM. Coyotes - Ladislav Nagy, 24 goals; Doan, 39 assists and 60 points; Andrei Nazarov, 118 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Feb. 23): Penguins - Power play: 14.9 percent (43 for 289), 22nd in NHL. Penalty killing: 76.0 percent (213 for 279), 30th. Coyotes - Power play: 15.0 percent (41 for 274), 21st. Penalty killing: 82.2 percent (259 for 315), 23rd.

GOALTENDERS: Penguins - Jean-Sebastien Aubin (2-8-0, 0 SO, 3.25 GAA); Chiodo (0-2-0, 3.05). Coyotes - Boucher (9-11-8, 5, 2.48); Jean-Marc Pelletier (1-0-0, 3.33).

2002-03 SEASON SERIES: Coyotes, 2-0.

LAST MEETING: March 4; Coyotes, 4-1. At Pittsburgh, Doan scored twice and Sean Burke stopped 33 shots, leading Phoenix to its fifth straight win against Pittsburgh.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Penguins - 4-21-2-4 on the road; Coyotes - 10-13-5-2 at home.

Associated Press
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