Coyotes-Senators Preview

The Associated Press

The Phoenix Coyotes finally know what's ailing their captain.

The next two games could cure their anemic offensive play.

With Shane Doan out again, the Coyotes will try to capitalize on one of the worst defensive teams in the NHL on Saturday, while also attempting to beat the Ottawa Senators on the road for the first time in 15 years.

Doan - Phoenix's captain and top scorer at 12 goals - has missed six games with an unknown illness that was finally diagnosed Friday as some form of Rocky Mountain Fever, a bacterial disease that affects the lining of blood cells.

There is no timetable for his return, but he isn't likely to play until after this four-game road trip, which ends at league-worst Buffalo on Monday.

Before that, the Coyotes (18-10-6) will try to snap a three-game slide, and they've been held to one goal in each of those contests. They suffered a 2-1 shootout loss to Toronto on Thursday after losing 3-1 at Montreal in the opener of the trip two days earlier.

Phoenix, though, is hoping the seemingly advantageous schedule can help them win the final two games of the jaunt, before playing seven of the next eight at home.

"We have an opportunity here, if we get two good games, we could be looking at a good road trip," center Antoine Vermette told the team's official website. "Disappointing at not getting the first two, but it's a big point for us."

The Coyotes haven't managed to get two at Ottawa since Dec. 12, 1998, losing six straight while being held to 10 goals. They lost 4-3 in overtime to the Senators (14-17-6) at home Oct. 15.

Ottawa, though, is 3-6-1 in its last 10 home games, giving up 37 goals. The Senators allow an average of 3.16 on the season to rank among the worst defensive teams in the NHL.

"They're kind of in the same boat," Coyotes defenseman Derek Morris said. "They're kind of struggling a little bit like us. We're going to have to do a real good job, be real tight defensively, and hopefully try to create some chances down low.

"I feel our team is at our best when our forwards go low and work a cycle down low and find ways to get it to the point. We're going to have to do things that they're going to try to do to us."

The Senators are feeling mounting pressure after losing for the third time in four games Thursday, giving up three unanswered goals to fall 4-2 at home to Florida.

"We got too passive and found a way to lose," captain Jason Spezza said. "It's clear we're feeling pressure now and we're feeling the heat. We're trying to win hockey games, and the effort is there, but we don't execute.

"We don't play loose enough with the puck and we're making mistakes at the end. That's the position we've got ourselves in and we have to find a way to get out because no one is going to give us any help."

Spezza, who had a goal against the Panthers, could be key against the Coyotes again. He had a hat trick Oct. 15, giving him seven goals and 10 points in six career meetings.

Bobby Ryan's production has led to victories lately. Of his 13 points over Ottawa's past 20 games, all seven of his goals while five of his six assists have come in the seven wins.

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