By Dave Vest
GLENDALE -- The Coyotes will conclude a brief two-game homestand tonight when they host the New York Rangers at Jobing.com Arena. The puck drops at 6 p.m. (Arizona time).
Phoenix has won four of its past five home games and has 20 home victories on the season. Only two teams - Vancouver (23) and Chicago (21) - have more home victories.
Backup goalie Jason LaBarbera is expected to start for the Coyotes (31-18-5). LaBarbera's last start was on Jan. 12 against San Jose. He stopped 29 of 32 shots but Phoenix lost 3-1.
The Coyotes likely will play minus forward Scottie Upshall, who leads the team with 18 goals. Upshall suffered a lower-body injury in Thursday's win over Calgary and did not practice on Friday. Meanwhile, the team recalled forward Mikkel Boedker from the American Hockey League.
New York (24-23-7) has lost four consecutive games - all in regulation - and has dropped to ninth place in the Eastern Conference standings in the process. The Rangers have scored just three goals during their losing streak.
"They're struggling so we have take advantage of it and get on them quickly and get the two points," Coyotes forward Radim Vrbata said.
Right wing Marian Gaborik is pointless in his past four games but still ranks fifth in the NHL with 61. Goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who is expected to start tonight, has given up 14 goals in his past four starts - all losses.
For New York, tonight's game is the first of three straight against Western Conference teams on the road. They will play at Colorado on Sunday and at Los Angeles on Tuesday.
"This is good timing to go out on the road with the boys,” Rangers center Brian Boyle told the team's Website. “... But it’s not going to be easy by any stretch of the imagination. These are three tough teams we’ll be facing. Hopefully we’ll be flying home with five or six points next week.”
Coyotes center Matthew Lombardi has notched six points in the past five games, including five assists. His 26 assists on the season rank first on the team.
Rangers center Artem Anisimov, a rookie, notched the first two-goal game of his NHL career on Jan. 25 in a 4-2 loss vs. the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Coyotes goalie Jason LaBarbera, who is expected to start tonight's game, likes playing against the Rangers because New York is the team that selected him with the 66th overall pick in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft. LaBarbera played just five games for the Rangers before being traded to the Los Angeles Kings after the 2004-05 season.
New York has played the Coyotes just eight times in Arizona since the team moved from Winnipeg to Phoenix in 1996. The Rangers have won three of those games, including the two played at Jobing.com Arena.
Before the game, the Coyotes will induct former captain Teppo Numminen into their Ring of Honor. Numminen played a record 1,098 games for the franchise. Click here to watch an interview with Numminen.
"They come hard on the forecheck and really try to play a really high-tempo game, so it's going to be a tough game for us."