Ducks-Coyotes Preview

The Associated Press

Thanks to a unique twist in the lockout-shortened schedule, the Anaheim Ducks will be seeing a lot of the Phoenix Coyotes over the next few days.

With the way Anaheim has been playing lately, the opponent hasn't seemed to matter anyway.

The Ducks - off to the best start in team history - seek their 13th win in 15 games on Saturday night when they begin a stretch of three games in five days against the Coyotes.

"With the shortened season, these are some of the quirks that you deal with," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. "Every point is valuable, and especially when you're playing a team that's leading your division, it magnifies those points even more."

Red-hot Anaheim picked up two more points on Friday when it survived a late Minnesota rally for a 3-2 win - the team's eighth straight at home. The Ducks (15-3-1) surpassed the 2006-07 Stanley Cup team - which opened 13-2-4 - for the best start in franchise history.

"You never want to be satisfied, and you never want to take anything for granted,'' coach Bruce Boudreau said. "We just want to keep going and see how far it can lead.''

The Ducks have been nearly as good on the road with a 7-2-1 record. Anaheim, however, had its six-game winning streak snapped in a 5-2 loss at Los Angeles on Monday.

It was a rare off offensive performance for an Anaheim team that ranks among the NHL leaders at 3.32 goals per game and has been even more potent at 3.4 on the road.

Ryan Getzlaf has helped lead the way with three goals and seven assists during a five-game point streak.

Linemate Corey Perry has four goals and 12 points in his seven-game run. He has 14 goals and nine assists in his last 22 against the Coyotes.

Perry is also tied with Saku Koivu for the team lead with three power-play goals. The Ducks have been tough to stop on the man advantage recently, converting 8 of 15 opportunities in their last five contests.

They may have a difficult time matching that efficiency against a Phoenix team that has killed 25 of 28 penalties in its last nine games.

Mike Smith will try to get back on track after allowing four goals on 19 shots before being replaced by Jason LaBarbera in the third period of a 4-3 loss to Minnesota on Thursday.

While Smith has given up 11 goals in his last three games, he's won five of six home starts with a 1.26 goals-against average against the Ducks.

The Coyotes (9-8-3) started February with a 6-2-1 record, but closed the month by going 1-2-1 in their last four. The slide has coincided with the loss of leading goal scorer Martin Hanzal, who has been moved to injured reserve with an upper-body injury.

Kyle Chipchura has helped pick up the slack with three goals and an assists in four games since Hanzal went down, while Mikkel Boedker has chipped in with a goal and four assists over that span.

After Jonas Hiller had 31 saves in Friday's win, the Ducks are expected to start Viktor Fasth against the Coyotes. Fasth, who is 9-1-0 overall, has won five of six road starts with a 2.41 GAA.

The Coyotes, who have won three of the last four meetings in Phoenix, will also host the Ducks on Monday before the teams move to Anaheim on Wednesday.

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