By Dave Vest
The Coyotes will end a weeklong layoff from games tonight when they host the Anaheim Ducks at Jobing.com Arena. The puck drops at 7 p.m. (Arizona time).
Phoenix (22-20-8) will enter the game with 52 points, three behind eighth-place Minnesota in the Western Conference standings with 32 games to go.
The Coyotes last played on Jan. 24 when they beat Ottawa, 3-2, on home ice. A lengthy break followed for all players except defenseman Keith Yandle
, who traveled to Ottawa to participate in the NHL All-Star Game/festivities over the weekend.
“We needed the break bad,” Coyotes Head coach Dave Tippett said after Monday’s practice. “Our group has been exhausted for a couple of weeks. I think within a six-week period, we were 28,000 miles traveled, which is unheard of in the League. I can't ever remember a stretch like this.”
He added, “The guys came back today with a great attitude; hopefully that translates into better play and more wins.”
below) will start in goal for the Coyotes in his 39th game of the season. Smith’s record for games played in one NHL season is 42, and he’s eager to prove he can handle the workload.
“It’s exciting,” Smith said. “…I’ve played a lot of games but I’ve worked hard for my whole life to get the opportunity to play a lot, and I’m looking forward to the second part of the season.”
The Ducks (18-23-7) will be looking to pick up where they left off just before the break when they posted an 8-1-1 record and outscored opponents 36-17 in that span.
|Photo by Getty Images.
That run has enabled Anaheim to climb within 12 points of eighth-place Minnesota with 34 games to go.
“Everybody in the room knows what we have to do,” Head Coach Bruce Boudreau told the team’s Web site after Monday’s practice. “We’ve known what we’ve had to do for a month now. Everybody’s sense of urgency is at different times in the year, as far as teams go. There are teams that haven’t reached their sense of urgency yet. We reached ours earlier than most teams.”
The Ducks, who have won a League-low five road games, are being led offensively by 41-year-old forward Teemu Selanne, who has notched 45 points in 48 games.
Defenseman Francois Beauchemin has chipped in two goals and five assists in the past 10 games, and left wing Niklas Hagman has scored three of his seven goals this season vs. the Coyotes.