By Dave Vest GLENDALE -- The Coyotes will try to extend their winning streak to a season-high four games tonight when they host the Calgary Flames at Jobing.com Arena. The puck drops at 7 p.m. (Arizona time).
Phoenix (25-21-8) will enter the game riding a three-game winning streak during which they’ve outscored opponents 12-5.
Remarkably, tonight’s game is the first of four between these teams this season. The Coyotes, who are one point ahead of the Flames in the Western Conference standings, swept the four-game series from Calgary in 2010-11.
Mike Smith is expected to start in goal for the Coyotes and set a new career-high for games played in an NHL season at 43. Smith has stopped 90 of 95 shots and has posted a 1.67 goals-against average during the team’s winning streak.
“I think we're playing well as a group right now,” Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said. “We've got good energy (and) our players are competing very hard. There's a lot of little details in the game that we've been very strong in.”
► Click here to see more comments from Tippett about this game.
Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle, who left Tuesday’s game in the third period after awkwardly blocking a shot with his leg, is expected to play tonight. Yandle has played in 227 consecutive games - the fifth-longest streak in franchise history.
Photo by Getty Images.
Calgary (25-22-7) will enter tonight’s game less than 24 hours after winning 4-3 at San Jose on Wednesday to improve to 1-0-1 on a three-game trip.
Flames center Olli Jokinen recorded his seventh NHL hat trick and added an assist, and goalie Miikka Kiprusoff made 34 saves for his 300th NHL victory.
Flames backup goalie Leland Irving is expected to make his fifth NHL start tonight in place of Kiprusoff. This will be the fourth time he has started the second game of back-to-back games for Calgary this season.
"They're scrapping for any kind of point right now to get by us in the standings," Coyotes forward Taylor Pyatt said. "So it's going to be crucial we play some good hockey against them."
Calgary is the only team left in the NHL that has not yet scored a short-handed goal. The last time the Flames scored a short-handed marker was 75 games ago when Anton Babchuk buried a shorty in the Heritage Classic game.
Coyotes right wing Radim Vrbata has notched at least one point in five straight games and leads the team with 25 goals.
Flames center Olli Jokinen has notched four goals and three assists in the past four games, including three goals vs. San Jose on Wednesday.
Coyotes Associate Coach Jim Playfair (see PODCASTS below) spent 11 seasons with the Calgary Flames organization, including one as its head coach (2006-07).
Coyotes center Daymond Langkow played 392 games for the Flames over six seasons before being traded back to the Coyotes last summer for forward Lee Stempniak.
Tonight's game will be broadcast on XTRA Sports 910 AM at 7 p.m. For in-game updates via Twitter, follow @coyotesgameday.