NHL Preview from The Sports Network|
Thursday, March 13th
(All times Eastern)
Phoenix Coyotes (31-24-11) at Boston Bruins (41-17-5), 7 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - Four victories in their past five games have the Phoenix
Coyotes in the thick of the race for a wild card berth in the Western
The Boston Bruins' longest winning streak of the season is helping them run
away in the Atlantic Division.
The Coyotes conclude a four-game road trip on Thursday night looking to deny
the Bruins a seventh consecutive victory.
Following back-to-back wins at home, Phoenix began its trek with a regulation
setback to the Washington Capitals. However, the Coyotes have responded with
two victories in the state of Florida, leaving them a point behind the Dallas
Stars for the second wild card spot.
The Coyotes recorded a shootout triumph at Tampa one night before besting the
Florida Panthers by a 3-1 margin on Tuesday. Mike Smith keyed the victory with
Phoenix allowed two goals or fewer for the third time over its past five
"As of late we've tightened up more defensively and there's been a lot more
shots coming from outside. As a goalie that's all you can ask for," said
Smith, who has a 1.81 goals against average and .939 save percentage in his
past 11 games.
Mike Ribeiro, Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Radim Vrbata lit the lamp for the
Coyotes, who did lose forward Martin Erat to an upper-body injury early in the
His status for this game is unknown, while David Schlemko (bruised left foot)
and Martin Hanzal (lower body) remain day-to-day.
Vrbata remained on a roll with two assists on Tuesday in addition to his sixth
goal in his last 10 games. He leads Phoenix with 46 points.
Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle, a Boston native, has an assist in four
straight games, while captain Shane Doan is expected to skate in his 1,300th
NHL game tonight.
The franchise's all-time leader in games played, Doan will become the fourth
active player and 54th all-time to reach that mark. He is also set to become
the 10th player to do so with the same franchise.
The Bruins will wrap a series of games on back-to-back nights after finishing
off a three-game road trip perfect with Wednesday's 4-1 win over the rival
Carl Soderberg, Patrice Bergeron and Milan Lucic tallied in the second period,
while Zdeno Chara added a third-period marker as the Bruins beat the Canadiens
for the first time in six meetings.
"We wanted to play to our strengths," noted Lucic. "That gave us momentum,
especially in the second period. It's nice to get a win against these guys. It
was a five-game losing streak before this one."
Tuukka Rask augmented his team's offense with 35 saves.
The Bruins have outscored opponents 25-10 in non-shootout goals over their
six-game winning streak and have opened a 13-point edge over the Toronto Maple
Leafs in the Atlantic Division. Boston also has two games in hand over the
Leafs, who play in Los Angeles tonight.
Soderberg has tallied five points over his past four games, while Bergeron has
two goals and three assists in the last two.
Boston is one point behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for the most in the Eastern
Conference and will play its next three at home, where it is 25-7-2 on the
Tonight is the first of two meetings this season between the Coyotes and the
Bruins, who visit Phoenix on March 22. Boston won the most recent encounter on
the road 2-1 in overtime on Dec. 28, 2011. That was the first encounter
between these clubs since opening the 2010-11 campaign with a split of two
games in the Czech Republic.
The Coyotes are visiting Boston for the first time since March 5, 2009 and own
a pair of victories and a tie in their last three trips to Beantown.
Smith is 3-6-0 with a 2.54 GAA in his career versus the Bruins and is expected
to start tonight.
Rask has split two previous meetings with the Coyotes, but may give way to
backup Chad Johnson tonight. Johnson spent last season with the Coyotes, going
2-0-2 with a 1.21 GAA in only four games, and lost his only previous start
03/13 10:44:51 ET