The Coyotes have won back-to-back games for the first time in a month, but it’s likely going to take more than that to establish themselves among the Pacific Division elite.
As one of five division teams with at least 41 points, they’ll try to continue shoving their way through the crowd Saturday night against the visiting Hurricanes.
The Coyotes (18-8-5) have done plenty of their damage this season against the Eastern Conference by going 8-1-1, including a 5-3 win at Carolina on Oct. 13.
“(Teams from the East) go through California and whatever, and it seems like they lose games there,” Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. “So we look at it as if we lose to them then we’re losing ground on people.”
The Coyotes’ confidence isn’t exactly waning after Thursday’s 6-3 home win over the Islanders.
“We’re doing it together, everyone is chipping in,” center Mike Ribeiro told the team’s official website. “It’s hard for other teams to match up with us because so many guys are capable of contributing.”
Ribeiro had a goal and an assist against the Islanders, and his eight points in the last five games have him now leading the team with 26.
Like the division, Phoenix’s stat sheet is a crowded bunch. Seven Coyotes have over 20 points, which is something only the Blackhawks and Blues can also claim.
Rob Klinkhammer had two goals and an assist Thursday while Mikkel Boedker scored twice in Phoenix’s four-goal second period. Boedker’s six points in the past five games have him up to 21 in 31 contests, and he’s quickly chasing down his career high of 28 in 78 games in 2008-09.
Defensive-zone success could be the missing ingredient for the Coyotes. They’re allowing an average of 3.06 goals, and the other five teams giving up over three goals per game have losing records.
That’s carried over to the penalty kill, where Phoenix ranks among the worst in the league at 77.5 percent.
The Hurricanes (13-13-7), though, haven’t done much on the power play to cause other teams concern. Their 12.8 percentage is among the worst in the NHL, and they’ve yet to score more than one power-play goal in a game despite being among the league leaders in opportunities with 117.
They could have used one in Thursday’s 2-1 overtime loss at Calgary.
“We had chances, we just didn’t capitalize and it came back to bite us,” coach Kirk Muller said. “I thought it was going to be a low-scoring game, tight. I was happy the way we stuck with it tonight.”
Jeff Skinner scored for a second straight game and has seven goals in his last six, though he missed a third-period penalty shot. Despite playing just 22 games, his 11 goals lead the team and his 20 points rank second behind Eric Staal (25). Only six Carolina players have reached double digits in points.
The return of Alexander Semin could help remedy that. The forward played Thursday after missing 12 games with a concussion. He had 44 points in 44 games a season ago, though he got off to a slow start this year with nine points in 20 contests before the injury. Semin has six points in five career games against the Coyotes.
Phoenix defenseman Derek Morris has missed three games due to personal issues, but Tippett expects him to return this week.
Shane Doan, however, remains out with an unspecified illness. The Coyotes captain has missed the last three games.
Phoenix is 3-0-1 in the last four meetings with Carolina.