By Dave Vest
The Coyotes will attempt to up their winning streak to six games tonight when they host the Atlanta Thrashers at Jobing.com Arena. The puck drops at 7 p.m. (Arizona time).
Phoenix (30-19-9) will enter the game in first place in the Pacific Division standings with 69 points, but just one point ahead of San Jose, Anaheim and Dallas. Fifth-place Los Angeles is just two points behind the Coyotes.
Playing solid defense in all three zones has served the Coyotes well during their winning streak, which began after a 6-0 home loss to Vancouver on Feb. 2.
"You have to have good goaltending, you have to have players that are willing to sacrifice to play a hard game and block shots and defend well, and our guys have done a pretty good job of it," Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said. "There were some times this year where I think we got away from it a little bit, but right now our mind-set is pretty strong."
Goalie Ilya Bryzgalov
will make his 17th consecutive start for Phoenix. During the winning streak, Bryzgalov has stopped 127 of the 133 shots he has faced. That's an eye-popping .955 save percentage.
After tonight’s game, the Coyotes face a 10-day, five-game trip.
"It's a very important game for us (tonight) because there's a very tough road trip after that one," Tippett said. "... We're winning some games here (and) we've won some close games that pushed us along in the standings, but the last one at home before a long road trip you want to make sure you play well."
Coyotes center Vernon Fiddler
has been a force in the faceoff circles since returning from an upper-body injury on Feb. 9. Fiddler has won 28 of 41 draws (68 percent).
|Photo by Getty Images.
Atlanta (25-23-10) will enter the game in 10th place in the Eastern Conference standings, two points behind eighth-place Carolina.
The Thrashers, who haven't played since Sunday, have won just two of their last 10 games (2-5-3).
Goalie Ondrej Pavelec has compiled a 3.53 goals-against average in his past six starts.
Defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, who signed a lucrative contract extension this week, leads the Thrashers with 43 points. He also leads all NHL defensemen with 17 goals and ranks third in the NHL, among all skaters, with 242 shots on goal.
"He's a big body, and he shoots it hard, so I'm sure they're telling him with a shot like that, shoot as many times as you can," Tippett said. "He's given their team a different dimension."