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Vrbata could be back for Ducks-Coyotes III

by Curtis Zupke

ANAHEIM -- Will the Phoenix Coyotes bring back one of their best offensive pieces to add a twist to the third installment of their trilogy with the Anaheim Ducks?

Coach Dave Tippett said Wednesday that forward Radim Vrbata is close to returning from an upper-body injury that has kept him out since Feb. 16.

"We'll see how things go there," Tippett said. "Vrbata is close. Whether he plays or not, I'm not sure."

What is certain is that the first two games of the unusual three-game series have been Twilight Zone-like similar. Phoenix won both games 5-4 in a shootout, and the eight goals in regulation were scored in the exact same sequence as Anaheim blew leads of 1-0, 3-2 and 4-3.

"It's weird," Ducks forward Bobby Ryan said. "We're not a team that's let a lot of one-goal leads go away this year. I think it's been a couple of frustrating days for us, when you think about it and you've got time to have it on your hands. They're a good team. They've fought back well and answered well."

This represents the first time the Ducks have gone winless in two straight games. Anaheim has seen a lapse in its defensive play and looseness in the neutral zone as points of emphasis for improvement.

The Ducks have thrived on resiliency, but coming from behind isn't the ideal blueprint, especially in identical ways in consecutive games. At the same time, the Coyotes aren't really known as the comeback kids.

"Probably not really the Coyotes' brand of hockey -- especially the third periods and overtime have been pretty excited," Phoenix goalie Jason LaBarbera said. "They [the Ducks] are a good team and obviously they're playing well. Both games were a little bit more offensive than what we would normally play, but we were able to get points out of it."

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