Getting acquainted: Ducks, Coyotes play first of three straight
Phoenix head coach Dave Tippett said his club is looking at a great opportunity coming up as an odd scheduling quirk has the Coyotes set to play three straight against the Anaheim Ducks.
That is one way at looking at an upcoming stretch against one of the hottest teams in the NHL and the Coyotes try to avoid becoming the Ducks' latest victim in Saturday night's meeting in Phoenix.
The schedule of this lockout-shortened campaign has led to some odd string of games for teams this year, but none may be as strange as this run of three contests in five days between the Coyotes and Ducks. The Pacific Division rivals are meeting for the first time this season and will see plenty of each other over the next week.
The Coyotes will host the Ducks for two straight, including a rematch on Monday before this series shifts to Anaheim for Wednesday's encounter.
When all is said and done, the Coyotes may have either chipped away at their current 10-point deficit to the Ducks for first place in the standings, or found themselves further buried in the playoff race.
"It is a little bit like a playoff series where after each game there are subtle tweaks you want to make to try and get an advantage or correct issues that might be in the game," Tippett said after practice on Friday. "It makes it fun as a coach because you dig in and you've got to find ways to make your team better while playing the same opponent. In the playoffs, that's what you do every day. In a mini-series like this, with the points so valuable, that'll be the case this time around."
Phoenix is currently bringing up the rear in the Pacific Division with 21 points, putting it 11th overall in the standings but still very much in the mix for a playoff spot.
Anaheim, meanwhile, is second in the Western Conference to only the Chicago Blackhawks, who have still yet to lose a game in regulation this season and lead the NHL with 39 points.
The Ducks are eight off that pace but are off to their best start in franchise history through 19 games, having gone 15-3-1. That betters the 13-2-4 beginning by the 2006-07 Stanley Cup-winning team.
Anaheim has won eight of its past nine overall and pushed its home winning streak to eight in a row with Friday night's 3-2 win over the Minnesota Wild.
It wasn't the finish that the Ducks would have liked as they nearly blew a 3-0 lead, giving up a pair of third-period goals before having to kill off a late Wild power play.
Ryan Getzlaf and Teemu Selanne scored in the first period and Matt Beleskey had what ended up being a huge tally in the second period. Jonas Hiller ended with 31 saves.
"We felt pretty good coming into this season. Obviously nobody expects to start the way we did, but guys are doing the right things," said Getzlaf, who has three goals and 10 points over a five-game point streak.
Corey Perry assisted on Getzlaf's goal and has logged four goals and eight helpers over a seven-game point streak.
The Coyotes come into this meeting a little fresher but also off Thursday's 4-3 loss to the Wild. Keith Yandle and Shane Doan scored late third-period goals, with Doan's fifth tally of the season cutting the deficit to one with 59 seconds to play, but Phoenix couldn't complete the rally.
"When you get into as big a hole as we did it's tough to come back from. We played better in the third period, but it's nothing to be proud of," said Yandle following his club's third loss in four games.
Rostislav Klesla also scored, but Mike Smith gave up four goals on 19 shots and was replaced after 40 minutes. Jason LaBarbera stopped all four shots he faced in relief.
Doan, meanwhile, potted his 323rd career goal, matching Keith Tkachuk for second place on the franchise's all-time list. Dale Hawerchuk is first with 379 career tallies.
The Coyotes and Ducks have split their past 12 meetings overall and last six in Phoenix.