NHL Preview from The Sports Network|
Wednesday, March 14th
(All times Eastern)
Phoenix Coyotes (34-25-11) at Vancouver Canucks (42-19-8), 10 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The Canucks and Coyotes would both be in the playoffs if
the season ended today, but neither team has looked much like a postseason
club in recent weeks.
The struggling teams will try to get back on the right track when they meet
tonight at Vancouver's Rogers Arena.
The Canucks are holding a comfortable 14-point lead atop the Northwestern
Division, but the defending Western Conference champions have posted just two
wins over their last seven games (2-3-2). The lull has also dropped Vancouver,
which is the second seed in the West, six points behind St. Louis for the
top spot in the conference and overall NHL standings.
Phoenix, meanwhile, posted an 11-0-1 record in February, but is just 1-4-2 so
far in March. The Coyotes are the seventh seed in the West, but they are just
one point in front of a group of four teams battling for the eighth seed.
Phoenix is also four points behind Dallas for the Pacific Division lead.
The Canucks last played on Saturday against visiting Montreal and were handed
a 4-1 setback by the Habs. The loss dropped Vancouver to 2-3 on a seven-game
homestand and lowered the Canucks' home record this season to 20-9-4.
Ryan Kesler netted the lone goal for the Canucks, while Roberto Luongo was
touched for all four goals on 35 shots in defeat.
Canucks captain Henrik Sedin was held without a point for an eighth straight
game on Saturday, leaving him one game shy of the longest point drought of his
career. Sedin's linemate and twin brother, Daniel, has just one assist over
that same span.
Henrik Sedin believes there is still time for the brothers, and the team as a
whole, to get back on the same page before the playoffs.
"We've got 13 more games here and then the important games start," Henrik said
after Saturday's loss. "We've got to re-group during these two days and be
fresh for the next practice."
Luongo has also struggled between the pipes, allowing 11 goals on 70 shots
over his last three games. Luongo is expected to get the call over
backup Corey Schneider tonight.
Meanwhile, after four straight regulation losses to begin March, the Coyotes
were at least been able to post a win and two shootout defeats during their
recent three-game homestand.
Phoenix began the residency last Thursday with a 3-2 shootout loss to the
Minnesota Wild before ending a five-game slide with a 3-0 win over San Jose on
The Coyotes were denied consecutive wins, however, when they dropped Monday's
5-4 shootout decision against Nashville, but Phoenix did rally from two goals
down in the third period to force overtime. Oliver Ekman-Larsson cut the
deficit to 4-3 with 12:49 left in the third period and Raffi Torres netted the
equalizer with just under five minutes remaining in regulation.
Ekman-Larsson, Torres and Daymond Langkow each posted a goal and an assist for
Phoenix and Keith Yandle supplied the other goal.
Mike Smith made 31 saves on 35 shots through overtime, but allowed Andrei
Kostitsyn to score the only goal of the shootout phase.
"We chased the game all night and that's tough," said Phoenix captain Shane
Coyotes forward Martin Hanzal has sat out the last two games with an upper-
body injury and is questionable for tonight. The big centerman is fifth on the
team this season with 31 points (8 goals, 23 assists).
Phoenix is kicking off a four-game road trip tonight and will also visit
Calgary, Edmonton and Dallas during the swing. The Coyotes have a decent
16-13-5 road record this season.
Tonight's tilt is the fourth and final regular-season meeting between the
Coyotes and Canucks this season. Vancouver posted a 5-0 rout in Phoenix to
begin the season series back on Nov. 25, but the clubs split a pair of
shootout decisions in February.
The Canucks have won three of the last five encounters in British Columbia.
03/14 10:44:36 ET