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28-23-11

Canucks-Coyotes Preview

AP - Sports

The Vancouver Canucks and Phoenix Coyotes are on the outside looking in at the Western Conference playoff picture.

These teams have played four one-goal games with three going to overtime this season ahead of Tuesday night's critical matchup in Arizona in which each team could be missing a key skater, and hours after the Canucks traded goaltender Roberto Luongo.

Phoenix (27-23-11) is trying to avoid its first five-game skid since a 0-5-2 slide March 14-27. The Coyotes have 65 points from 61 games.

Vancouver (28-25-10) has 66 points in 63 games and is 1-8-1 since these teams last met, a 5-4 Canucks' victory Jan. 26.

"Both teams are right in the hunt and I think we haven't gotten the success we've wanted to as of late, both teams," Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith said. "So it's an important game, obviously, every game is important but playing against a team like that right now that is fighting for the same playoff spot you are, it's a no-brainer, it shouldn't be a tough one to get up for."

Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said Martin Hanzal is questionable with a lower-body injury that was apparently suffered in Sunday's 4-2 home loss to St. Louis. Hanzal is tied for fifth on the team with 37 points.

The Canucks have not updated the status of Daniel Sedin, tied for the team lead with brother Henrik with 40 points. Daniel Sedin, who is pointless in 12 straight games, left in the second period of Sunday's 4-2 loss to Ottawa in the Heritage Classic because of an injury.

These teams have split four intense battles, with the home team winning each time. Vancouver's wins went to overtime while the Coyotes captured a shootout along with Smith making 29 saves in a 1-0 victory Jan. 16.

While Smith figures to start Tuesday, Vancouver coach John Tortorella had gone with Eddie Lack over Luongo in all three games since the Olympic break. Luongo was upset about not starting Sunday's showcase event, and was traded to Florida on Tuesday for goalie Jacob Markstrom and forward Shawn Mattias.

Lack's lone career appearance against the Coyotes was on the short end of Smith's shutout in January.

The Canucks are trying to avoid their first six-game road slide since Nov. 23-Dec. 22, 2006.

"I'm not down," Tortorella said. "Sure, you'd like to win a game and maybe get the five out of six (points) before you go on the road, but it changes quickly. We're still in the middle of it. I know everybody talks about you need to do this, that and the other thing to get in. There are four other teams that need to do the same thing."

Henrik Sedin has turned in nine straight pointless games while the Canucks are 0-8-1 in the last nine games played by Ryan Kesler, who continues to be the subject of trade rumors.

The Canucks own one of the NHL's worst power plays at 13.9 percent while the Coyotes have the West's worst penalty kill at 79.5 percent.

Vancouver will be wary of Antoine Vermette, who has five goals in the season series.

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