By Dave Vest
GLENDALE -- The Coyotes will try to extend their winning streak to three games today when they host the Buffalo Sabres in a holiday matinee. The puck drops at 5 p.m. (Arizona time).
Phoenix (27-18-3) has earned five of eight points on its current six-game homestand, including victories over New Jersey and Minnesota the past two games.
Ilya Bryzgalov will start in goal for the Coyotes. Bryzgalov is 3-1-0 with a no-decision in his past five starts and has given up 19 goals in those five games.
Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett served as an assistant coach under Sabres Head Coach Lindy Ruff at last year's IIHF World Championship for Team Canada, which won a silver medal.
"He's an excellent coach," Tippett said of Ruff. "His tenure with one team speaks volumes about what kind of person he is and what kind of coach he is."
For Buffalo (29-11-6), today's game is the third of a seven-game trip that doesn't end until a week from today at Vancouver.
The Sabres have posted a 7-0-1 record vs. Western Conference teams this season, including a 2-1 victory over the Coyotes on Oct. 8.
"They are a really fast team and they have a lot of skill," Coyotes defenseman Zbynek Michalek said. "Plus, they work hard. They are one of the hardest working teams in the league. I am sure they will work hard again on Monday."
Sabres goalie Ryan Miller, who will play for Team USA at next month's Winter Olympics, is having a sensational season. Miller has stopped an NHL-best 93.6 percent of the shots he has faced, and he ranks second in the league with a 2.01 goals-against average in 39 games.
"Every time I see him (play) he seems very strong positionally and makes the saves he's supposed to make," Tippett said. "He's one of the top goaltenders in the league."
Coyotes right wing Petr Prucha is averaging a point per game in his past four games. On Saturday, he scored two goals in a 6-4 win over Minnesota.
Sabres center Tim Connolly, the fifth overall pick in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft, has notched at least one point in 11 consecutive games.
These teams are similar in that they rely on strong goaltending and a scoring-by-committee approach. Not one player in this game has scored more than 15 goals this season and yet 11 have scored at least 10.
Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett needs one victory to reach 300 victories as an NHL head coach. Tippett began his NHL head coaching career with Dallas in 2002-03.
Coyotes forward Taylor Pyatt played 230 games for Buffalo over four seasons. He and Sabres star Tim Connolly were traded to Buffalo together from the New York Islanders before the 2001-02 season for Michael Peca (see PODCASTS below).
"The fans seem to be really getting behind us, so hopefully we can continue to play well at home."