Penguins-Coyotes Preview

The Associated Press

If the Pittsburgh Penguins can play as well on the second stop on their mothers' trip as they did on the first, they might have to make the gathering an annual occurrence.

To hear Coyotes captain Shane Doan tell it, it might not take much inspiration to beat Phoenix.

The Penguins look to wrap up their two-game trip with another impressive performance Saturday night against Doan and the Coyotes, whose frustrations are growing after their latest troubling defeat.

Pittsburgh's players had its fathers accompany them on one road trip for the past six years, but decided to have their mothers along for this two-game trek to Los Angeles and Phoenix.

The Penguins (38-14-2) certainly seemed to be motivated by their moms' presence Thursday in Los Angeles. Pittsburgh scored three goals in the game's first 11:47 - two on the power play - against the NHL's stingiest team en route to a 4-1 victory.

"Personally, I had a good first period like our whole team," center Jussi Jokinen, who had a goal and two assists, told the team's official website. "So probably have to fly my mother here more than once a year. It was really cool (to have her here to see). Obviously my mom doesn't have a chance to watch me play too often, so to be able to get a goal and a couple points, it feels good for sure."

The Coyotes (25-19-10) will take any sort of good luck charm they can find after a month that has left them on the outside of the playoff picture. Phoenix capped a 5-9-1 January with perhaps its most frustrating loss of the season, 3-2 to league-worst Buffalo on Thursday.

''I don't even know what our level is because we're barely above average right now, if average,'' Doan said. "Come on. It's as a group and it's me, 100 percent me. It's not acceptable. Not even close.''

The Coyotes head into February in ninth place in the West, trailing Vancouver and Minnesota for the conference's two wild-card spots.

''It is frustrating,'' said forward Antoine Vermette, who has eight goals in eight games and a six-game point streak. ''You don't want to look too far (ahead) in your schedule, but we know our situation.''

The Penguins have won three straight in the series, though they haven't visited Phoenix since a 4-3 shootout victory Nov. 6, 2010. Evgeni Malkin had a goal in that one for Pittsburgh, and has three goals and four assists during the Penguins' winning streak against the Coyotes.

Marc-Andre Fleury is expected to be back in net for Pittsburgh after rookie Jeff Zatkoff made 30 saves against the Kings. Fleury, the NHL leader with 29 wins, is 3-1-0 with a 1.95 goals-against average in five starts versus Phoenix, though he got pulled 6:56 into the Penguins' last visit to the desert after allowing two goals on five shots.

Thomas Greiss has started the Coyotes' last two games in place of Mike Smith, but Phoenix's top goaltender should be between the pipes again Saturday looking to forget about a 3-7-1 January in which he posted a 2.99 GAA.

Smith has given up 10 goals on 55 shots in his last three starts against Pittsburgh, though only one of those came with the Coyotes.

Penguins defenseman Kris Letang, who missed Thursday's game with an illness, is doubtful for Saturday. Pittsburgh is 16-4-0 with Letang out of the lineup this season.

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