CANUCKS (10-5-1) at COYOTES (10-3-2)
Season series: This is the first of five meetings between the Vancouver Canucks and Phoenix Coyotes. The Canucks are 4-0-1 over their past five meetings at Jobing.com Arena, including a 2-1 win in the most recent encounter on March 21.
Big story: The word of the day is momentum, and both the Canucks and Coyotes have plenty of it. These new Pacific Division opponents are separated by one point in the standings, and Phoenix (22 points) and Vancouver (21) are both riding hot streaks ahead of the game Tuesday.
The Coyotes edged division leaders San Jose Sharks, 3-2 in a shootout, for their fourth straight victory Saturday. Hours before, the Canucks dismantled the then-Eastern Conference-leading Toronto Maple Leafs for their fourth win in five games.
Coyotes: The Canucks may be a force on the road, but the Coyotes are nearly unstoppable at home. Phoenix has more wins at home than any team; the Coyotes are an impressive 6-0-1 at Jobing.com Arena. Moreover, the Coyotes are just one of three remaining NHL teams (ANA and SJS) that are unbeaten in regulation at home.
Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett recently set a franchise record for wins with 166.
Defenseman Zbynek Michalek, who will play in his 600th NHL game tonight, has been an unsung hero for the team this season. He is plus-9 on the season, and he blocked seven shots vs. San Jose and ranks second in the NHL with 48.
Coyotes goalie Mike Smith leads the NHL with 388 saves. He has stopped 89 of 92 shots over his past two games.
"We're not satisfied yet," Smith said of the team's 10-3-2 start. "We're still not where we want to be, but we've improved a lot in many ways. We're happy with the season so far, but we have to get better. The Pacific is the best division in the League and there's no time to let off the gas pedal."
Smith owns a 3-3-0 career record with a 2.38 goals-against average and a .932 save percentage in seven career games against the Canucks.
Canucks: Vancouver starts a four-game road trip in Phoenix, which shouldn’t bother the Canucks much. Only the Colorado Avalanche have a better away record than Vancouver (6-2-1), one the Canucks accrued largely over a season-long seven-game road swing from Oct. 15-25.
Much of Vancouver’s success is due to the top line of Ryan Kesler and the freshly re-signed twin brothers Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin. Since coming together 10 games ago, the line has combined for 14 goals and 18 assists. That line scored the first goal against Toronto – a rare power-play tally – setting the tone for the dominating 4-0 victory that would ensue.
"It was a great performance from the first minute to the last," said goaltender Roberto Luongo. "We really kept the puck in their zone and cycled and created some chances and were in there pretty much the whole game."
Who’s hot: Goaltending has played a large role in each of these teams’ recent success. Smith leads the League with 388 saves, including 89 stops on 92 shots over the past two games. Luongo pitched a shutout against the Maple Leafs (his second of the season) and has conceded more than two goals five times in 13 season starts.
Injury report: Coyotes defenseman David Schlemko (lower body) is questionable, while center Jeff Halpern (back) and defenseman Rostislav Klesla (lower body) are on injured reserve... Canucks left wing David Booth (lower body) will miss 1-2 weeks. Center Jordan Schroeder (sprained ankle) and wingers Jannik Hansen (upper body) and Dale Weise (lower body) are on injured reserve. …
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