By Dave Vest
The Coyotes will start a brief two-game trip tonight with a game against the Vancouver Canucks at GM Place. The puck drops at 7 p.m. (Arizona time).
Phoenix (47-23-6) will enter the game looking to build off an impressive 6-2 victory over Colorado on Saturday, the same day the team clinched its first Stanley Cup Playoffs berth in eight years and reached the 100-point plateau for the first time in franchise history.
With six games left before the regular season ends, the Coyotes are in great shape to earn home-ice advantage for the first round of the playoffs. They are currently in fourth place in the Western Conference standings, eight points ahead of fifth-place Nashville. Meanwhile, Phoenix trails conference-leading San Jose by just four points.
Starting tonight, the Coyotes will use the last six games of the season to fine tune for the playoffs.
“We have a lot of parts of our game that we want to make sure we touch on before the end of the season,” Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said. “What we’d like to do is really make sure we’re well-versed in what we want to do as a team. We probably won’t know our opponent in the first round until late in the season so we’ll spend a lot of time making sure that we’re doing the things that we want to do well as a team.”
will be in goal for the Coyotes, who will conclude this trip on Wednesday night in Calgary.
The Canucks (45-26-4) have lost three of their past four games, but are always tough to beat on home ice. They have won a league-leading 27 home games this season and have outscored opponents 131-77 at GM Place.
Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo likely will start in goal for the Canucks, who, despite the mini-slump, still lead the Northwest Division by five points.
Luongo recently has said his participation in the Olympics last month was a mentally draining experience, and his recent stats back up that claim. In his past five games, Luongo has posted a 1-3-1 record and has allowed 16 goals.
"There's still seven games left, you never know what could happen," Luongo told reporters. "We have to keep on winning and more importantly we want to get on a roll and go into the playoffs feeling good about ourselves."
The Canucks will play minus defenseman Shane O'Brien, who has been informally suspended from the team until Sunday for unspecified reasons. O'Brien averages 17:12 per game.