With a month to go in the regular season, the Phoenix Coyotes are within range of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Unfortunately, they haven’t been playing with a sense of urgency lately.
The Coyotes look to break out of their funk against a team they have played well against when they visit the Pacific Division-leading Dallas Stars on Wednesday.
Phoenix (33-28-5) finished last in the West with 67 points in 2006-07, but has already earned 71 points this season with 16 games to go. The Coyotes, three points out of the eighth spot in the West after Monday’s games, are seeking their first playoff berth since 2002.
After scoring 13 goals during a three-game win streak from Feb. 14-18, however, Phoenix has managed just eight goals in its last six games, going 2-3-1 in that span.
“What we need to do is re-establish what got us to this point, and that’s our work ethic and unselfishness as a group - and by that I mean short shifts and staying out of the penalty box and playing the game the way we need to play to be successful, whether it’s the start of the game or the end of the game,” Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky said.
In Saturday’s 3-1 loss to Calgary, Phoenix was limited to 17 shots.
“We have to be a little hungrier,” forward Shane Doan said. “Overall, we need to play harder. From a team standpoint, we must put more pressure on the puck and create turnovers.”
The Coyotes have proven they can play with one of the best teams in the league, winning three of their last four games against the Stars (41-23-5) and outscoring them 16-6 over that span.
Doan has three goals and six assists in four games against Dallas this season, while Radim Vrbata has three goals and two assists in the five meetings.
Doan and Vrbata’s scoring woes have contributed to the Coyotes’ recent struggles, however. Doan scored his 20th goal of the season Saturday, snapping a seven-game drought. Vrbata leads Phoenix with 27 goals, but he’s been held without one for a season-high six straight games.
The Coyotes’ Ilya Bryzgalov stopped 25 shots Saturday after going 2-1-0 with a 0.67 goals-against average and a shutout in his previous three starts. Bryzgalov is 1-1-0 with a 2.02 GAA in two starts versus the Stars this season, while backup Mikael Tellqvist is 2-0-0 with a 1.00 GAA and one shutout against them.
Dallas is five points back of league-leading Detroit in the West, and looking to bounce back from just its third loss in 16 games.
After beating Chicago 7-4 on Thursday, the Stars allowed three third-period goals in Saturday’s 3-1 loss to Nashville. Dallas had scored 21 goals during a four-game win streak before Saturday’s defeat.
“We got a little sloppy in the third and had a little letdown compared to the other night,” recently acquired forward Brad Richards said. “It’s been an up-and-down week.”
Mike Ribeiro scored his team-leading 27th goal Saturday, and has three goals and five assists during a four-game point streak. Ribeiro, who leads the Stars with 75 points, had a goal and two assists in Dallas’ 5-3 win over the Coyotes on Oct. 27, but has been held without a point in the last four meetings.
Marty Turco made 25 saves Saturday as his three-game winning streak came to an end. Turco is 10-3-0 with a 2.08 GAA since Jan. 29, but has struggled against the Coyotes this season, going 1-2-0 with a 3.46 GAA in four games.
The Stars have not lost consecutive games since Jan. 22 and 24.