CANUCKS (24-15-9) at COYOTES (21-16-9)
Season series: This is the third of five games between the Vancouver Canucks and Phoenix Coyotes. The home team won each of the first two games, but the visiting team got a point by getting past regulation.
Big story: The Coyotes, who trail Vancouver by six points, are desperate for a win after dropping four in a row in regulation. The Canucks come to Arizona after a nightmarish two-game trip to Southern California in which they were swept and scored one goal -- which came in a 9-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday.
Coyotes: Four straight losses have dropped Phoenix out of the top eight in the Western Conference. But Head Coach Dave Tippett is optimistic after watching his team go toe-to-toe with the powerful St. Louis Blues on the road Tuesday night in a 2-1 loss.
Mike Smith will be back in goal vs. Vancouver for his third straight start. He is 4-3-1 in nine games against the Canucks with a 2.37 goals-against average.
Defenseman Zbynek Michalek, who has been out since Dec. 17 with a lower-body injury, will return to the lineup for this game. The Coyotes are 15-6-3 in the 24 games that Michalek has played this season.
"He's the type of player that goes in there and gives you everything he's got and that's what we're looking for right now, for players to max out and give us everything to help us win. He's a big part of that identity on our team," Head Coach Dave Tippett said.
Despite missing 22 games this season, Michalek leads the Coyotes with 72 blocked shots. Keith Yandle is second with 60 in all 46 games.
"It's been a very frustrating season for me," Michalek said. "I'm happy to be back. I've been working very hard to get back in the lineup and I hope I can contribute to the lineup."
He added, "You're never 100-percent sure until you go in the game," he said. "You can practice all you want and skate all you want on your own but you can't know until you play. It's been tough because we haven't had many team practices with the team playing every other day. I've been skating for 10 days or two weeks on my own and pregame skates and that's not really testing it. I feel good enough but that can change after a few games. Hopefully not."
Canucks: Vancouver probably couldn't have gotten out of Anaheim fast enough after they surrendered six power-play goals and were demolished by the League-leading Ducks. The Canucks took 73 minutes in penalties and gave the Ducks a 5-on-3 advantage for 7:00 in the third period after Tom Sestito and Jannik Hansen each received 17 minutes in penalties for instigating fights.
Head Coach John Tortorella didn't want to talk about the penalty problems, preferring instead to turn the page as quickly as possible.
"It was one of those nights," he said. "The big thing for us is that we need to get out of here and get ready for the next game."
Who's hot: Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson has both of his team's goals this week after not scoring for 23 games... Zach Kassian had Vancouver's lone goal in Anaheim and has scored twice in his past four games.
Injury report: Coyotes defenseman Zbynek Michalek (lower body), who hasn't played since Dec. 17, continues to progress, although there's no timetable for his return... Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo (ankle) remains day-to-day. Forwards Alexandre Burrows (broken jaw) and Jordan Schroeder (ankle), and defenseman Andrew Alberts (concussion) and Ryan Stanton (ankle) are on injured reserve.
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