Originally posted on Fox Sports Arizona  |  Last updated 1/31/12
The Anaheim Ducks and Phoenix Coyotes both sit on the outside of the Western Conference playoff picture. While the Ducks - despite a terrific three-plus weeks - have a ways to go if they hope to climb their way back into the postseason race, the Coyotes are one of a handful of teams vying for the West's last two playoff slots. With both teams looking to get off to strong starts following All-Star weekend, visiting Anaheim tries for a third consecutive win over Phoenix on Tuesday night. After sitting at or near the bottom of the West for much of the season, the Ducks (18-23-7) have put together the second-highest winning percentage in the league since Jan. 6. Anaheim has outscored opponents 36-17 in going 8-1-1 during that stretch, but it still sits 13th in the conference - nine points behind 12th-place Phoenix (22-20-8) and 12 in back of eighth-place Minnesota. "Everybody in the room knows what we have to do," coach Bruce Boudreau told the team's official website following Monday's practice. "We've known what we've had to do for a month now. Everybody's sense of urgency is at different times in the year, as far as teams go. There are teams that haven't reached their sense of urgency yet. We reached ours earlier than most teams." While their chances of getting back into contention don't seem great, the Ducks are anything but short on confidence. "We feel really good about ourselves, the way we've been playing the last month," defenseman Francois Beauchemin said. "I think it shows with the record we've had in the month of January. We want to build on that. "We know every team we're playing against right now is a team that we're trying to catch in the standings. Every game is important. We just have to take it one by one." The Coyotes, meanwhile, are one of six teams within six points of one another competing for the No. 7 and 8 seeds in the conference. With a six-day break in between games, coach Dave Tippett is hoping to see his club come out with plenty of energy for this stretch run. "We all talked about it before the break, our team really needed a break. It was probably the toughest two months of a schedule I've seen in a long time in the NHL," Tippett said. "Good to get away, but now we have to refocus, this is a very important stretch for us. We know where we stand (and) where we have to get to, and everybody comes back with a rejuvenated attitude and rejuvenated mentally and physically, and (it's) time to put a push on." The Coyotes snapped a streak of 10 straight losses in one-goal games with a 3-2 win over Ottawa last Tuesday. Right wing Radim Vrbata scored his team-leading 23rd goal and captain Shane Doan had his 15th. Mike Smith made 32 saves versus the Senators, improving to 3-1-1 with a 1.98 goals-against average over his last five home starts. Smith, however, is 2-2-0 with a 4.01 GAA in four meetings with the Ducks this season. He gave up a season worst-tying six-goals in a 6-2 loss at Anaheim on Jan. 18. The Ducks' Jonas Hiller, who made 25 saves in that matchup, turned away 15 shots in a 1-0 loss at Dallas on Jan. 24. Hiller has allowed less than three goals in nine consecutive starts, during which he's gone 6-1-1 with a 1.44 GAA. Hiller is 2-4-1 with a 3.59 GAA in his last eight visits to Phoenix.
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