NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Tuesday, March 20th
(All times Eastern)
Phoenix Coyotes (36-26-11) at Dallas Stars (39-28-5), 8 p.m.
(Sports Network) - Phoenix pulled out a desperate victory last time out to
move into a tie for the Pacific Division lead with the Dallas, which is
looking to prevent a tailspin of its own.
The Coyotes and re-energized Stars battle tonight with first place on the
Phoenix trailed by two goals heading into the third period of Sunday's clash
with Edmonton and got goals from Ray Whitney and Raffi Torres to force
overtime. Torres' game-tying tally came with 2:23 to play in regulation and
Whitney then added the shootout winner to key a 3-2 victory.
The triumph gave the Coyotes 83 points on the season, the same number as the
Stars. Dallas, though, holds the top spot in the division because it has a
game in hand, having 10 contests left to Phoenix' nine.
Despite both clubs being in contention for a division title, the loser of
tonight's meeting could fall out of the playoff picture. The Colorado
Avalanche also have 83 points and sit eighth overall in the West, while both
the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks are just a point back with 82. All
three teams are also in action tonight, with the Kings hosting the Sharks and
the Avs welcoming the Flames, who are 11th with 81 points.
Phoenix's victory on Sunday was just its third this month (3-5-2) and was
keyed by 36 saves from Mike Smith.
"That wasn't the way the game plan was drawn up," said Phoenix coach Dave
Tippett, who earned his 400th career win. "After the second period we just
went in to ultimate desperation mode. We were pushing hard and we found a way
to get points."
Forward Radim Vrbata was back in action after missing two games due to
illness, but he suffered an undisclosed injury during the game. So did fellow
forward Taylor Pyatt, while defenseman Adrian Aucoin is doubtful for this game
because of a lower-body issue.
Phoenix wraps a four-game road trip tonight against a Dallas team that has
been off since Friday's 4-1 setback to Chicago. The brief break should give
the Stars some energy over the regular season's final stretch and captain
Brenden Morrow is hoping his team will take advantage.
"Maybe in years past, we've wanted teams to do us favors and help us win and
that's hurt us. We've just got to worry about our games and what we can
control and that's Phoenix tomorrow," Morrow said on Monday.
The Stars will try to avoid losing three straight for the first time since
Feb. 10-14 and had won six straight before a setback in Winnipeg last
Wednesday. They made it back-to-back losses versus Chicago, giving up a goal
10 seconds into the game and trailing 2-0 before the contest was two minutes
"You can't start a game like that," said Dallas' Jamie Benn, who scored his
team's only goal late in the third. "We put ourselves in a hole 3-4 minutes in
and you never want to do that against a good team like Chicago."
Kari Lehtonen was tagged for all four goals on 31 shots as the Stars fell to
10-2-1 over their past 13 games and 20-13-3 at home this season.
Dallas lost the opener of a four-game homestand and played without defenseman
Sheldon Souray (charley horse) and forward Radek Dvorak (ankle) due to injury.
Both are probable to return for tonight.
The Stars won their first two meetings with the Coyotes this season in a
shootout, but Phoenix has responded with three straight wins. The Coyotes took
a 2-1 overtime victory in the most recent encounter on Feb. 18 in Phoenix,
with Vrbata netting the game-winner 1:15 into the bonus frame.
That was part of an 11-0-1 February for the Coyotes, who have won six of their
past nine in Dallas.
Seven of the past nine games between these clubs have been decided by just a
03/20 10:45:47 ET
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