By Dave Vest
The Coyotes will look to start a three-game trip with a win tonight when they play the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. The puck drops at 5 p.m. (Arizona time).
Phoenix (20-17-5) will be looking to build from momentum gained on Saturday when it beat the New York Islanders 5-1. In that game, Coyotes captain Shane Doan
below) notched his first NHL hat trick at the 19:59 mark of the third period to send his teammates and the home crowd into a frenzy.
|Photo by Getty Images
Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said he hopes the dramatic event will trigger a strong second half of the season for his team.
“You get some energy from a boost like this,” Tippett said. “...We’ve got another tough road trip ahead of us here this week, so hopefully we can use (Doan’s hat trick) as some energy.”
He added, "We know we're going to have to go in and play well in these buildings, so that momentum can't hurt."
This is the second of two games between these teams this season. In a thrilling game played in Glendale on Dec. 17, the Rangers won, 3-2, on a goal by Brad Richards with one-tenth of a second left in the third period.
The Coyotes have proven they can win road games with a 12-9-2 record away from home this season. But they have struggled to win consistently since Dec. 1, and Doan and his teammates are concerned.
"We haven't been as good as we've wanted to be for the last three weeks," Doan told NHL.com. "We haven't had a long, bad losing streak, but we've lost three here, two more there, and it adds up. As a team, we hadn't lost three straight previous to that in the two years that Tipp's been our coach, so we have to get it going back in the right direction."
is expected to start in goal for the Coyotes. Smith (see PODCASTS
below) has posted a 1.62 goals-against average and a 2-1-1 record in four starts since making 27 saves against the Rangers last month.
The Coyotes activated center Boyd Gordon
from the injured-reserve list on Tuesday and he may play tonight. That's great news considering Gordon leads the team and ranks eighth in the NHL in faceoff percentage at 56.4 percent.
Center Gilbert Brule
, whom Phoenix claimed off waivers on Tuesday, will not play. Instead, Brule will join the team in Detroit on the next stop on its three-game trip.
Phoenix again will play minus center/alternate captain Martin Hanzal
, who remains on the injured reserve list with an upper-body injury. Defenseman David Schlemko
, who suffered a lower-body injury in Saturday's win, also is on the injured-reserve list.
The Rangers (26-9-4), who will enter the game having won four games in a row and nine of their past 10, have earned more points than any other team in the NHL (56).
"I think we're confident, we have a really good feeling in the locker room," goaltender Henrik Lundqvist told reporters. "We're trying to do our jobs, and at the same time we're trying to enjoy this ride this season, and so far it's been a lot of fun."
Richards has notched three goals and two assists during New York’s four-game winning streak.
Right wing Marian Gaborik, who leads New York with 23 goals, has thrived in recent games vs. Phoenix with 13 goals in his last 12 contests.