NHL Preview from The Sports Network|
Thursday, February 17th
(All times eastern)
Atlanta Thrashers (25-23-10) at Phoenix Coyotes (30-19-9), 9 p.m.
(Sports Network) - Even a five-game winning streak hasn't helped the Coyotes
make some room atop a tight Pacific Division. However, a visit from the
Thrashers may help.
Phoenix hopes to extend its second-longest winning streak of the season and
keep Atlanta winless all-time in the desert as the two clubs square off
tonight at Jobing.com Arena.
The Coyotes are on their longest winning streak since their season-best seven-
game run from Nov. 10-23 and picked up a 3-2 win over the Capitals on Monday
in the middle portion of a three-game homestand. The victory put Phoenix a
point up on Dallas and Anaheim for first place in the division, but two days
in between games has also allowed the Sharks to pull within a point of the
Coyotes as well.
Forward Ray Whitney foresaw such an event following Monday's win.
"If you wait a day, we'll could be back in fourth. That's how tight this is
right now," Whitney said after notching a goal and an assist versus the
Vernon Fiddler had the game-winning goal in the third period, Martin Hanzal
scored and Ilya Bryzgalov made 29 saves in Phoenix's fourth straight home
The Coyotes have to feel good about their chances of a perfect three-game
homestand. They are 4-0 with a tie in their last five versus the Thrashers --
though the last three games have gone beyond regulation -- and 11-1 with a tie
in the 13 all-time meetings since Atlanta joined the league.
The Thrashers, who recorded their lone win over the Coyotes on Nov. 23, 2003,
are also winless in seven all-time trips to Phoenix, with six losses and a
Bryzgalov, who has a 1.18 goals-against average and two shutouts over the
Coyotes' current win streak, will likely face the Thrashers for the first time
in a Phoenix uniform. He has faced the franchise just once before, but not
since a 20-save win with the Ducks back on Dec. 3, 2005.
Atlanta would love to turn its luck around in this series tonight after
falling out of the playoff picture on Sunday. The Thrashers came into their
meeting with the Hurricanes tied for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference
with Carolina, but lost a 3-2 decision.
Andrew Ladd had both goals in the setback to give him three in his last three
games as well as a team and career-high 19 on the season. Ondrej Pavelec made
14 saves for Atlanta, which has dropped five of six and is 2-5-3 in its last
"It's obviously a tough one because I thought we outplayed them for the
majority of the game," said Ladd. "You still gotta bear down when you have the
opportunity. There's still plenty of hockey to play, we just have to get back
Atlanta defenseman Dustin Byfuglien will play for the first time since inking
a multi-year extension on Tuesday, reported to be a five year, $26 million
Despite switching to defense from forward following an offseason trade from
Chicago to Atlanta, the 25-year-old leads the Thrashers with 43 points and is
second with 17 goals.
"Dustin has emerged into an elite player this season and been invaluable as a
leader both on and off the ice," said Thrashers general manager Rick Dudley.
"It was a priority to sign him and we're looking forward to witnessing his
All-Star caliber play for many years to come."
Atlanta begins a three-game road trip tonight and has lost three straight and
five of its last six on the road.
Pavelec has faced Phoenix just once, yielding a pair of goals on 34 shots in
last year's 3-2 home shootout loss on March 14.
02/17 11:01:57 ET