GLENDALE, Ariz. – Two days after a frustrating loss at the hands of the team with the NHL's worst record, the Phoenix Coyotes have to try to regroup against the best the East has to offer.
Still on the outside looking in at a Western Conference playoff spot, the struggling Coyotes meet the Pittsburgh Penguins Saturday. Phoenix is now 10-7-3 against the East after a 3-2 regulation loss against the Buffalo Sabres Thursday.
With a golden opportunity to gain ground in the Western Conference playoff race, the Coyotes lost to the Sabres for the second time in five weeks and were a frustrated group afterward. Phoenix captain Shane Doan called out himself and his teammates, saying it was more than a matter of playing to the level of competition.
"I don't even know what our level is because we're barely above average right now, if average," Doan said after the Coyotes lost Thursday. "It's not acceptable. Not even close."
Both teams will have their starters in goal tonight.
Marc-Andre Fleury is back in the net after backup Jeff Zatkoff made 30 save in a 4-1 road win against the Los Angeles Kings Thursday. The Penguins have now won 23 of their past 29 games and sit first in the East, seven points ahead of the Boston Bruins.
Phoenix's Mike Smith hasn't played in almost a week after backup Thomas Greiss went 1-1 in the first two games of this five-game homestand. He's spent a week working with goalie coach Sean Burke and will try to shake out of a tailspin that has seen him win just six times since Nov. 16.
Here are the projected lineups for the Penguins and Coyotes:
Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Tanner Glass
James Neal - Evgeni Malkin - Jussi Jokinen
Brian Gibbons - Brandon Sutter- Jayson Megna
Taylor Pyatt - Craig Adams - Deryk Engelland
Paul Martin - Brooks Orpik
Rob Scuderi - Robert Bortuzzo
Matt Niskanen - Olli Maatta
Scratched: Andrew Ebbett, Chuck Kobasew
Injured: Tomas Vokoun (blood clot), Kris Letang (ill), Beau Bennett (wrist), Pascal Dupuis (knee), Chris Conner (hand), Joe Vitale (wrist)
Lauri Korpikoski - Antoine Vermette - Mikkel Boedker
Shane Doan - Martin Hanzal - Radim Vrbata
Rob Klinkhammer - Mike Ribeiro - David Moss
Paul Bissonnette - Kyle Chipchura - Jeff Halpern
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Zbynek Michalek
Keith Yandle - Derek Morris
David Schlemko – Connor Murphy
Scratched: David Rundblad, Michael Stone, Tim Kennedy