Published March 31, 2012
| Sports Network
The Phoenix Coyotes will try to build off an important victory tonight when they host an Anaheim Ducks team that has relished in the spoiler role lately.
After consecutive losses, the Coyotes rebounded in a big way on Thursday with a 2-0 win over visiting San Jose. The victory had allowed Phoenix to tie Dallas for the top spot in the crowded Pacific Division race.
The standings have altered since and the Coyotes come into play this evening as the eighth seed in the Western Conference, having matched the Stars' 89- point total but having three fewer non-shootout wins. Phoenix is also just a point ahead of both the Sharks and Avalanche for the West's final postseason spot and only one behind the Kings for first place in the Pacific Division.
Phoenix, Los Angeles, Dallas and San Jose all have four games left in the regular season, while Colorado only has two and is idle tonight. The Kings, meanwhile, visit the Wild tonight while the Sharks play host to the Stars.
Radim Vrbata scored both goals in Thursday's key win over the Sharks and Mike Smith posted his sixth shutout of the season to lift Phoenix to the home win at Jobing.com Arena.
Smith made 38 saves for his 17th career shutout and third this season against the Sharks.
"I just knew the importance of the game and I think everyone did," said Smith. "It was huge, one of our biggest games, and we responded with a win."
Vrbata ended a 12-game goal drought and has a career-best 32 tallies this season.
Phoenix, which is 20-13-6 as the host this year, is playing the third test of a four-game homestand tonight and will close the residency against Columbus on Tuesday. The Coyotes will then cap their regular season with road tests in St. Louis and Minnesota.
Anaheim will miss the playoffs this season for just the second time in the post-lockout era, but the Ducks have still won three of their last four games. That includes a 3-1 triumph over the Sharks on Wednesday, a night before San Jose succumbed to the Coyotes.
Bobby Ryan, Teemu Selanne and Corey Perry had a goal apiece for the Ducks, while Jonas Hiller made 28 saves for Anaheim, which was officially eliminated from playoff contention during Wednesday's game thanks to wins by Dallas and Los Angeles.
"We're still playing," said Perry. "You can't take nights off."
The Ducks will close the season by playing four of their final five games on the road, where Anaheim is just 12-16-9 this season.
Tonight's test marks the sixth and final meeting between the Ducks and Coyotes this season. Anaheim has won three straight in the season series after Phoenix claimed the first two encounters. The Ducks have outscored the Coyotes by a combined 14-4 margin during their current series winning streak.
Anaheim has won three of its last five tests in Phoenix.