By Dave Vest
GLENDALE – The Coyotes are hosting the Dallas Stars tonight at Jobing.com Arena in the team’s final home game before a hectic six-game trip. The puck drops at 6 p.m. (Arizona time).
“It’s a very important game,” Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said. “It’s a home game before we go on the road so we want to make sure we’re playing well at home. We haven’t gotten the results we’ve wanted at home here the last couple (of games) so it will be a very important game for us. We have to establish home ice as a hard place for teams to come in and play and we have to get our points.”
► Click here to watch a video of Tippett answering questions after Friday's practice.
Ilya Bryzgalov is expected to start in goal for the Coyotes (13-8-6), who have lost three home games in a row.
Tonight’s game will be the eighth between these clubs since Tippett, who coached the Stars for six years, signed on to lead the Coyotes just before the 2009-10 season started. Tippett and the Coyotes have posted a 4-3-0 record against Dallas the past two seasons but have lost three of the past four showdowns, including a 6-3 defeat at Dallas on Nov. 5 in the only game between the teams in 2010-11.
Photo by Getty Images.
The Coyotes are boasting a healthy roster, including eight defensemen. Two will have to sit tonight along with the extra forward.
The Stars (17-9-2) enter tonight’s game in first place atop the Pacific Division standings, two points ahead of second-place Anaheim and four points ahead of the other three teams, including Phoenix.
Backup goalie Andrew Raycroft, who won the Calder Trophy in 2003-04, will start in goal in place of Kari Lehtonen, who is nursing a back injury. Raycroft made 22 saves on Friday night in Dallas as the Stars beat the Carolina Hurricanes 2-1 in a shootout.
"Andrew Raycroft was just outstanding," Stars Head Coach Marc Crawford told reporters after the game. "Tonight, we only needed the one goal, so that's great when you've got your goaltender playing as well as Andrew Raycroft played for us. It's a huge two points."
Raycroft has posted a 4-2-0 record, 1.90 goals-against average and one shutout in seven appearances.
Coyotes forward Taylor Pyatt has scored five goals in the past eight games, including three in the past two games on three consecutive shots (see PODCASTS below).
Stars center Brad Richards, who scored the decisive shootout goal Friday vs. Carolina, has notched at least one point in five straight games.
The Coyotes have allowed just 15 first-period goals in their 27 games, tied with Boston for the second-fewest in the NHL.
After this game, the Coyotes will play their next six games on the road. The team's next home game is on Dec. 28 vs. Anaheim.
This game can be seen on Fox Sports Arizona and can be heard on XTRA Sports 910 (AM). A link to the radio broadcast will be provided at phoenixcoyotes.com at 6 p.m.
"I’ve always been sort of a streaky scorer so hopefully I can ride this wave as long as I can and continue to contribute."