COYOTES (31-24-11) at BRUINS (43-17-5)
Season series: The Phoenix Coyotes and Boston Bruins will play twice in a 10-day span.
Big story: Coyotes captain Shane Doan will play his 1,300th NHL game as Phoenix looks to end a four-game Eastern Conference road trip with a three-game win streak. Doan will become just the 54th NHL player to reach that mark, and the 10th with one franchise. Phoenix is one point behind Dallas for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference but could overtake the idle Stars with a win.
Coyotes: Phoenix lost to the Washington Capitals on Saturday before defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers back-to-back Monday and Tuesday.
"We're missing those first two points," Doan told the Coyotes web site Wednesday in Boston. "But you're trying to find a way to get some positives. Winning those last two games was huge. We had to find a way to do it and we did. Now we have a big game coming up to finish the trip off, and it's going to be a huge challenge."
Defenseman Keith Yandle has notched 262 NHL points but none of those have come in his hometown of Boston. Thursday's game will be only Yandle’s second in Boston since he broke into the NHL with Phoenix in 2006-07. His debut game in his hometown occurred on March 5, 2009. Yandle played 14:02 that night but he didn't notch a point. Phoenix won 2-1.
Yandle is excited to play in Boston for a second time.
"A lot of people support me, watch (Coyotes) games and stay up late," Yandle said. "…Being able to have them at the game tonight means a lot."
Head Coach Dave Tippett has worked some newcomers into its lineup during the trip. Defenseman Brandon Gormley made his NHL debut, defenseman Chris Summers played his first three games of the season and forward Andy Miele was recalled from Portland of the American Hockey League.
"Whenever you get a chance to play as a young guy, the energy you bring to that game is incredible," Doan said. "It's kind of like your playoffs ... having youthful enthusiasm is important for our team."
Forward Brandon McMillan arrived Feb. 27 and has played six games for Phoenix after seeing action in 91 for the Anaheim Ducks during parts of three seasons. McMillan has two goals in his past three games playing on a line with Doan and Mike Ribeiro.
Goalie Mike Smith is expected to make his seventh straight start.
"When he's our best player we're a good team and it makes the game that much easier," Doan said. "He hides a lot of mistakes... He bails us out and when he's doing that we're a tough team to beat because he's that good."
Bruins: Boston, which defeated the Montreal Canadiens 4-1 on Wednesday, is 9-1-2 in its past 12 games and trails the Pittsburgh Penguins by one point for first place in the Eastern Conference.
"I think we're definitely focused on trying to get that spot," forward Brad Marchand told NHL Network. "But I think more it's the process and how we're going to do that and make sure we're prepared for each and every game, not trying to look too far ahead, and hopefully things will sort themselves out at the end. But we just want to play our best hockey going into the playoffs."
On Feb. 1, Boston was seven points behind Pittsburgh. In a six-game winning streak, the Bruins have outscored their opponents 26-10.
"I think we're starting to come into our own and it seems like everybody's buying in at the right time and just focused on doing their job," Marchand said. "The only time we really get in trouble is when we try to do too much, and we've been on a pretty good roll, so we're happy right now."
Goalie Chad Johnson is 13-3-1, the best winning percentage for a backup goalie with at least 14 games played (.765). He is likely to start after Tuukka Rask defeated the Canadiens. Johnson played four games for the Coyotes last season.
Who's hot: Yandle has five assists in his past four games, and seven in seven. Coyotes forward Radim Vrbata had three points in the 3-1 win against the Panthers and he has four goals and two assists in his past four games... Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron has five points in his past two games. Forward Carl Soderberg has five points in his past four games, and nine in nine.
Injury report: Coyotes forward Martin Erat (upper body) is out. So are defenseman David Schlemko (lower body) and forward Martin Hanzal (lower body)... Bruins forward Daniel Paille (concussion) skated Wednesday and could return Saturday. Defenseman Adam McQuaid (leg) is out.
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