By Dave Vest
GLENDALE – The Coyotes will play their final game before the NHL suspends its season for the Winter Olympics tonight when they host the Dallas Stars at Jobing.com Arena. The puck drops at 6 p.m. (Arizona time).
Phoenix has beaten the Stars three out of four times this season, but lost 4-0 the last time these teams played on Feb. 6 at the American Airlines Center. This is the third straight weekend that the Coyotes will be playing the Stars in the second game of a back-to-back situation.
"It is what it is," Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said of the quirky/demanding schedule involving his former team. "You just have to deal with the hand you are dealt."
The Coyotes did not hold a morning skate on Saturday. Thus, it is not clear which goalie Tippett plans to start in goal in Phoenix's final game until March 2. Ilya Bryzgalov played Friday night at Colorado and is headed to the Olympics after the game to play for Russia. Backup Jason LaBarbera, who last played on Feb. 5, has won his past two starts.
With a record of 37-20-5 through 62 games, the Coyotes already have surpassed their win total (36) and matched their point total (79) from last season. The franchise record for wins and points in a season is 43 wins/96 points, both of which came during the 1984-85 season when the team was based in Winnipeg. Since moving to Phoenix, the Coyotes have never notched more than 40 wins or 95 points.
Dallas (27-21-12) is inching its way into the Western Conference playoff picture. The Stars are 3-1-1 in their past five games and will enter the game in ninth place in the conference standings just one point behind eighth-place Calgary, which they beat on Thursday.
If the Stars are going to continue their push to the postseason, they must play better on the road (9-15-7). Only three NHL teams - Edmonton, Toronto and Carolina - have posted fewer road victories than Dallas this season.
Stars center Mike Modano has scored more points (93) against Phoenix/Winnipeg than any other NHL club. Moreover, his 93 points are the most by any active player against the franchise.
Coyotes center Martin Hanzal has notched two goals and two assists in the past three games, including Phoenix's lone goal Friday at Colorado.
Stars center Mike Ribeiro has notched three goals and one assist in the two games he has played since coming off the injured-reserve list (throat contusion).
The Coyotes have won four straight games at Jobing.com Arena and own a 22-8-2 home record. That's good because Phoenix plays its next five games at Jobing.com Arena, with four of those coming after the Olympic break.
Today's game will mark the completion of Phoenix's ninth set of back-to-back games this season. The Coyotes, who lost at Colorado, 2-1, on Friday, are 11-4-2 in the 17 games played in the first eight-plus sets.
Stars goalie Marty Turco has posted a 3-1-1 record in his past five games with a 1.38 goals-against-average. He has stopped 168 of 175 shots.
No podcast today. Check back Sunday night to watch a video of Ilya Bryzgalov discussing the 2010 Winter Olympics.