COYOTES (35-26-12) at DEVILS (31-28-13)
Season series: This is the second and final game between the Phoenix Coyotes and New Jersey Devils. Martin Hanzal had a goal and an assist when the Coyotes edged the Devils 3-2 in Phoenix on Jan. 18.
Big story: The Coyotes finish a three-game road trip looking to distance themselves from the Dallas Stars in the race for a Stanley Cup Playoff berth in the Western Conference, while the Devils play the finale of a five-game homestand in desperate need of two points to remain on the fringes of the Eastern Conference postseason picture.
Coyotes: While fans of Phoenix hold their collective breath hoping the injury sustained by No. 1 goalie Mike Smith against the New York Rangers on Monday won't keep him out for a lengthy period of time, backup Thomas Greiss showed Tuesday the Coyotes should still have a fighting chance if he's asked to carry the load down the stretch.
Greiss made 23 saves and won for the first time in nearly two months when the Coyotes edged the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-2 and, coupled with a loss by Dallas to the Chicago Blackhawks, jumped three points ahead for the second wild-card spot. Greiss has eight wins this season, the most by a Coyotes’ backup goaltender since the 2009-10 season (Jason LaBarbera – eight wins).
"It's big in the fact that without (Smith), he's been such a huge part of our team for the last three years and when you're missing him it's tough," captain Shane Doan said. "Obviously (Greiss), for him to come in and play the way he did made it easier, to give confidence to the group that if you can find a way to win in Pittsburgh you can find a way to win anywhere. Going forward until (Smith) is healthy, we need to keep that attitude of just finding ways to win."
Greiss will start again, with rookie Mark Visentin as his backup.
Forward Lauri Korpikoski, who missed the past two games because of an upper-body injury, will return to the lineup. Korpikoski was struck in the face by a puck during Monday’s morning skate at Madison Square Garden.
The Coyotes recalled defenseman Connor Murphy from the American Hockey League on Wednesday, his 21st birthday. Murphy, who has one goal and eight points in his first 26 NHL games, will be in Thursday's lineup, too.
Defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, 22, is expected to play in his 250th NHL game tonight.
Devils: Coach Peter DeBoer continues to use each of his goalies down the stretch. Cory Schneider made several key stops in leading New Jersey to a 3-2 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday, but it will be Martin Brodeur back between the pipes in this one. The Devils are five points out of a playoff spot with 10 games remaining.
"We have an opportunity to make a great story if we make it," forward Jaromir Jagr said of their flickering hopes. "If I get in, I'd rather get in winning the last 10 games."
Rookie defenseman Erik Gelinas played some shifts at left wing Sunday and was practicing there on a line with center Ryan Carter and right wing Michael Ryder on Wednesday. DeBoer indicated it was a move to get Gelinas more ice time.
"I'm happy he's in the lineup because every time he's in the lineup we win. At least most times," Jagr said.
Who's hot: Doan has five goals and seven assists in his past 14 games for the Coyotes. … Devils forward Patrik Elias has six goals and 10 assists in his past 13 games.
Injury report: Smith (lower body) remains day-to-day for Phoenix. Defenseman David Schlemko (lower-body) is out. … New Jersey defenseman Anton Volchenkov (lower body) left the game Sunday. Forward Tim Sestito (upper body) has missed the past two games. They practiced Wednesday but will not be available.
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