By JORDAN GARRETSON STATS Writer
Buffalo (14-30-8) at Phoenix (25-18-10), 9:00 p.m. EDT
The Phoenix Coyotes are hoping to use a long homestand to make up some ground in the Western Conference playoff race.
Following an impressive performance in the opener, they will try to knock off the scuffling Buffalo Sabres for just the second time in eight meetings.
The Coyotes were in position for a wild-card spot last month after an 18-8-5 start. Since Dec. 14, however, they’re 7-10-5 while averaging 2.32 goals after previously scoring 3.2 per game. They were 2-4-0 on a season-high six-game homestand Dec. 31-Jan. 11.
Phoenix, 15-8-3 on its own ice, is hopeful this stretch of five straight home games proves to be more successful after opening it with a 3-0 victory over Los Angeles on Tuesday.
“We caught a team at the right time, but that being said, I thought we played the right kind of game to take advantage of it,” coach Dave Tippett said after his club defeated a Kings squad playing for the second straight night and sixth time in nine days. “We kept getting pucks deep, we put some pucks at the net and it was a pretty solid game throughout our lineup.”
Antoine Vermette had a goal and an assist after recording a hat trick in Sunday’s overtime loss in Vancouver. He has six goals and two assists during a five-game point streak, though he hasn’t scored a goal over his last seven games versus Buffalo.
Shane Doan recorded his 500th career assist to help back Thomas Greiss’ second shutout in three starts for Phoenix (25-18-10), which stands ninth in the West.
“We’ve put ourselves into an average spot in the league. We have to be better than that if we want to make the playoffs,” Doan told the team’s website. “We have to find a way to climb and keep climbing and hopefully this is a step in the right direction. We have to get even better.”
Buffalo (14-30-8), 5-15-3 away from home, comes off its seventh defeat in eight games overall with a 5-4 overtime loss to Washington on Tuesday. The Sabres rallied to tie three times, including twice on goals by Cody Hodgson. Tyler Ennis and Matt Moulson each tallied two assists.
“I think we had a lot of character in that room,” said Hodgson, who has six goals and four assists in nine games since coming back from a thumb injury. “We showed a lot of guts battling back.”
For all of the Sabres’ recent struggles, they’ve won five of six in Phoenix and six of seven in the series, including a 2-1 home victory Dec. 23 on Mark Pysyk’s overtime goal. Ryan Miller stopped 36 shots and is undefeated in five starts against the Coyotes with a 0.98 goals-against average.
Mike Smith lost to Miller last month but has a 1.48 GAA in his last four matchups with Buffalo, going 3-0-1. However, he’s allowed 15 goals in his last four starts overall.
Phoenix has scored a power-play goal in 11 of its last 12 games.