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Coyotes aim to fix PK woes in home test vs. Caps
(SportsNetwork.com) - Struggles on the penalty kill led to the Phoenix Coyotes having a five-game winning streak snapped last time out.
They know they can't make the same mistake on Saturday night against Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals, owners of the league's top power play.
The Coyotes yielded a pair of power-play goals in Wednesday's 5-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks, including the game-tying tally while down two men late in the second period. That goal seemed to really shift the momentum as the Ducks went ahead for good on a goal with just 1.1 seconds to go in the middle frame.
Mike Smith made 24 saves and both Michael Stone and Shane Doan scored for a Phoenix club that was on its longest winning streak of the season and was coming off three straight shootout games. However, the Coyotes failed to contain a Ducks power play that ranks near the bottom of the league.
"You can't win a game in this league if you are going to turn the puck over and be undisciplined," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. "We knew it was going to be a hard game. It was a great test for our team to see how we reacted and we didn't play well enough, we didn't play disciplined enough to win."
Tippett will need his club to stay out of the box tonight. Washington ranks first in the NHL on the power play at 28.1 percent and Ovechkin tops the league with seven goals on the man advantage.
Phoenix could also be without Radim Vrbata after the forward left Wednesday's game with a lower-body injury. He has netted six goals on the year and is tied for the club lead with 13 points. Vrbata is expected to be a game-time decision along with defenseman Derek Morris.
However, blueliner David Schlemko and center Jeff Halpern could both return to the lineup tonight. Schlemko has missed four straight games with a lower-body injury, while Halpern has been out the past five with an upper-body issue.
The Coyotes are 7-0-1 at home and host a Capitals club that won for the fourth straight time with Thursday's 3-2 shootout win over Minnesota. Ovechkin scored his 13th goal of the season, on the power play no less, and Marcus Johansson potted a game-tying goal with 3:08 left in regulation, one that earned praise from head coach Adam Oates after Johansson's shot hit off a Minnesota defender and across the goal line.
"What I like about the tying goal is it took a lot of hard work," Oates said. "We fought through a lot of frustration because they were giving you nothing. It was hard to get shots to the net."
Nicklas Backstrom then had the lone goal of the shootout, which stood up after Braden Holtby made a save on Minnesota's Charlie Coyle. Holtby finished with 33 saves.
Following a perfect three-game homestand, the Capitals play two straight and three of their four on the road. Saturday will mark the first game for forward Jason Chimera since he signed a two-year, $4 million contract extension on Friday.
Chimera has posted five goals and six assists in 16 games this season.
The Capitals have won five of their past eight versus the Coyotes, including two straight at home. Holtby has never faced them.
Smith is winless in his career against Washington, going 0-6-0 with a 5.03 goals against average in seven games.
11/09 11:13:13 ET