Coyotes-Flames Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated April 11, 2013
A much-needed road win boosted the surging Phoenix Coyotes' playoff hopes their last time out. Such results will need to become more common over the next two weeks if they want to find their way into the postseason. The Coyotes continue a road-heavy closing stretch when they visit the Calgary Flames on Friday night looking to avoid a third straight loss at the Saddledome. Phoenix (18-16-6) is in ninth place in the Western Conference, right on the heels of Detroit for the final playoff berth. The Coyotes have put the pressure on by winning four of five and going 5-1-2 in eight. The club has gone 2-1-2 on the road during those eight contests, and it will need to find a way to keep picking up points away from home. Phoenix opened a 10-game closing stretch that includes seven road contests with a 2-0 loss at Vancouver on Monday before winning 3-1 at Edmonton on Wednesday. Starting with the Canucks game, the Coyotes play six of seven away from home. David Moss and Boyd Gordon each had a goal and an assist against the Oilers to help the Coyotes improve to 5-9-5 outside of Arizona. "We haven't been as strong as we would like to be on the road," captain Shane Doan said. "We have five games left away from home and we need to answer some questions. We need to stay above .500 on the road the rest of the way." Phoenix and Detroit will each have seven games left after Friday's action. "It's tight in the standings and there aren't too many games left in the season," said center Antoine Vermette, who also scored Wednesday. "We are well aware of the situation we are in and how important every single point is right now. It was a big win for us." Outstanding play from Mike Smith in goal has also bolstered Phoenix's playoff chances. He turned in his third straight strong start Wednesday with 29 saves and has allowed two goals over that span. Smith and his teammates, though, haven't been nearly as good in their last two games at Calgary. Smith started both as the Coyotes lost 4-1 last March 15 and 5-4 on Feb. 24 in their first visit this season. "Every game is important now. We'll worry about Calgary next, and hopefully get another big win there," Smith said. Phoenix has dropped three of four overall in the series. The rebuilding Flames, however, haven't given too many teams trouble lately. Calgary (14-21-4) has lost six of seven and failed to win back-to-back games for the first time since March 13 and 15 on Wednesday, falling 4-1 to Vancouver. The Flames fired 18 shots on goal in the third period but Roberto Luongo stopped them all. The Canucks scored three times on nine shots in the period against Miikka Kiprusoff. Calgary has been victimized by some outstanding goaltending in its past three games, outshooting each opponent and averaging nearly 38 shots but going 1-2-0. "I like my entire team's effort. ... The young players are coming in and giving us some great minutes," coach Bob Hartley said. "They're contributing, they're skating hard, I think we're seeing some great chemistry." Forward Alex Tanguay has two goals and five assists in his past five matchups with Phoenix. Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson has recorded one goal and six assists during a five-game point streak versus the Flames.
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