Neither the Phoenix Coyotes nor Vancouver Canucks have collected an abundance of wins lately.
However, the Coyotes topped the Canucks just over a week ago, and they will face a team that will be without its coach and likely without its captain again Sunday night.
Phoenix (24-18-9) is 6-10-4 in its last 20 games but snapped a season-high string of five consecutive road defeats with a 4-3 victory over Edmonton on Friday. After tallying the first four goals, the Coyotes nearly squandered a 4-1 lead after two periods.
"Coming out of the third period with a lead like that on the road, you should really salt that game away," coach Dave Tippett said. "It’s not that we took our foot off the gas. It’s the puck mistakes, the penalties, those kind of things. Things that real good teams don’t do, and those are still things that are a work in progress for our group."
Tippett’s club maintained a one-goal lead for even longer during a visit from Vancouver on Jan. 16. Antonie Vermette scored with 7:09 to go in the first period and Mike Smith made 29 saves in a 1-0 win for his only shutout this season.
The Coyotes also killed off seven Vancouver power plays to end a season-high four-game skid. Phoenix has split its four games since that win and Smith has allowed a combined 10 goals in his last three starts.
If he’s in net again Sunday, Smith might not have to face one of the Canucks’ leading scorers. Henrik Sedin has missed the past two contests because of an undisclosed injury and had a franchise-record streak of 679 consecutive games played snapped in Vancouver’s 2-1 win in Edmonton on Tuesday.
The Canucks (26-17-9), however, couldn’t follow with a third straight victory Thursday, falling 2-1 to Nashville. The Predators scored both goals on Roberto Luongo in the third period with the tiebreaker coming with 7:22 remaining.
Vancouver outshot Nashville 34-26 but went 0 for 5 on the power play. The Canucks are 2 for 30 with a man advantage in their last eight games, and they’ve allowed nine goals in the last 28 times they’ve been short-handed.
Vancouver has also scored a combined 21 goals during a 3-6-3 stretch and coach John Tortorella has been suspended for the past two games. Tortorella is out until Feb. 2 because he attempted to enter Calgary’s locker room after a penalty-filled first period in a 3-2 shootout win Jan. 18.
"We had good chances, good looks. I thought we moved the puck well," said forward Daniel Sedin, who has gone 11 games without scoring a goal. "In the end, it doesn’t really matter right now. We’ve got to get some goals."
Sedin, who also had an 11-game scoreless drought in 2010, hasn’t gone 12 straight games without a goal since a 13-game stretch from Feb. 21-March 17, 2008.
Phoenix has scored one power-play goal in nine of its last 10 contests, going 9 for 34. The Coyotes were 1 for 6 in the win over Vancouver earlier this month and went a combined 0 for 5 in the first two matchups this season.
Chris Higgins’ overtime goal gave the Canucks a 3-2 win in the only meeting at Rogers Arena on Dec. 6. Phoenix scored twice in the third period to rally from a 2-0 deficit, which included a goal from Henrik Sedin.
Vermette scored one of his team’s goals in that game and had the shootout winner in a 3-2 home victory Nov. 5. He has five goals and three assists in his last seven matchups.