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Red-hot Leafs finish road trip in Phoenix

by Mike G. Morreale
MAPLE LEAFS (18-20-4) at COYOTES (21-13-9)


Last 10 -- Toronto 6-4-0; Phoenix 6-2-2

Season series -- This is the first and only meeting between the teams in 2010-11. In their only game last season, Phoenix scored a 6-3 victory in Toronto as Keith Yandle and Martin Hanzal had 3 assists each. The Coyotes have won four straight against the Maple Leafs, outscoring them 21-10.

Big story -- With wins in four of their last five, the Coyotes have climbed the clogged Western Conference standings to fifth place, one point behind fourth-seeded Nashville.

Team Scope:

Maple Leafs --
The Leafs are playing their third game in four nights and fourth straight on the road. However, the club is playing some of its best hockey of the season, having won five straight road games, including the first three of their four-game road trip -- 9-3 at Atlanta, 3-2 at Los Angeles and, most recently, 4-2 in San Jose.

Coyotes -- After finishing an NHL-best 19-7 in overtime/shootouts last year, the Coyotes are 2-9 in 2010-11, including 0-6 in games decided in the five-minute overtime period. On Saturday, Buffalo's Drew Stafford beat Phoenix goalie Jason LaBarbera with a wrist shot with 1:48 left in overtime to give the Sabres a 2-1 victory. The team will have to perform significantly better in the extra period if it intends to solidify a playoff berth by the end of the season.

"Last year we were finding ways to win in overtime," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. "I remember a game when (Ed) Jovanovski was in the crease and the puck hit him in the shaft of the stick and the puck went in and games were just falling our way. This year the odds seem to be against us and those are valuable points we're missing out on."

Who's hot -- Toronto center Mikhail Grabovski has 12 goals and 18 points in his past 16 games, including his first two-goal game of the season in a 9-3 victory against Atlanta last Friday.

Injury report -- Toronto will be without goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere (groin) and forward John Mitchell (knee). … Coyotes goalie Ilya Bryzgalov returned to the lineup Tuesday in a defeat of Columbus after missing the previous three games due to a family illness.

Stat pack -- After sweeping back-to-back games just eight times in the previous 77 chances since 2005, the Leafs have done it twice in less than a week.

Puck drop -- Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson celebrated his 600th coaching victory Tuesday against the team that fired him nearly three years ago, the San Jose Sharks.

Wilson won 206 games during four-plus seasons in San Jose, leading the Sharks to the playoffs four times. He was fired in May 2008 after the Sharks were knocked out in the second round of the playoffs by Dallas -- their third straight second-round exit.

"It's pretty special," Wilson said. "Only six other guys have done it. You don't see it very often. The best thing is that we managed to find a way to do it here."

Wilson is the sixth coach to reach the 600-win mark, behind Scotty Bowman, Al Arbour, Dick Irvin, Pat Quinn and Mike Keenan.
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