By Dave Vest
The Coyotes will play the first of three games in four nights tonight when they take on the Anaheim Ducks at the Honda Center. The puck drops at 8 p.m. (Arizona time).
Tonight’s game is the third of six between these Pacific Division rivals this season. Phoenix has won the first two and four in a row dating to last season.
The Coyotes (15-11-3) will enter the game two points behind first-place Dallas in the the division standings with 33 points. After tonight’s game, Phoenix will host Edmonton and the New York Rangers on Thursday and Saturday, respectively.
will start in goal for the Coyotes. Smith is 5-0-1 with a 2.00 goals-against average in six career starts against Anaheim, including two wins this season.
Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle
has notched two of his four goals this season against the Ducks, one in each game. He also has notched two assists vs. Anaheim this season and is riding a seven-game point streak vs. Anaheim.
Coyotes center Boyd Gordon
, who has excelled in the faceoff circles all season, has won 21 of 29 draws vs. the Ducks in the first two games between these clubs.
Phoenix will be looking to snap out of a lengthy power-play funk in which they’ve scored just one power-play goal in the past nine past games. Head Coach Dave Tippett said he'd like his players to a.) draw more penalties and b.) take more shots during power plays.
"Both are concerns," Tippett said. "The ability to draw penalties means you have to beat people one on one, and your ability to have the power play have an impact on the game, that's what we're looking for. Neither of them have been very strong."
The Ducks are just 1-3-1 under new Head Coach Bruce Boudreau and will enter the game, like the Coyotes, on a two-game losing streak.
Tippett is expecting only subtle changes from the Ducks in terms of new tactics under Boudreau.
"Their top players are all players that want to put heavy pressure on the offensive zone, lots of cycle, lots of stuff around the net," Tippett said. "They're high-skilled, so I don't see that's going to change... The players haven't changed."
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Ducks forward Corey Perry leads the team with 12 goals and ranks tied for third in the League with seven power-play goals.
The Ducks are hoping to have All-Star defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky back in the lineup tonight. Visnovsky hasn’t played since Nov. 11 because of a hand injury.
Center Rod Pelley could make his debut with Anaheim (8-16-5) tonight after being acquired on Monday via trade with New Jersey.
Ducks center Andrew Cogliano is expected to play in his 358th consecutive game tonight. Cogliano has never missed an NHL game since making his League debut with Edmonton on Oct. 4, 2007.