Despite an injury to their starting goaltender, the Phoenix Coyotes appear poised to stay positive and remain in playoff position.
Looking to build on an impressive victory over one of the NHL’s top teams, the visiting Coyotes will try to deliver a blow to the New Jersey Devils’ slim playoff chances Thursday night.
One night after Mike Smith suffered a leg injury during the third period of a 4-3 overtime loss to the New York Rangers, Phoenix (35-26-12) bounced back with a 3-2 victory at Pittsburgh.
"It gives confidence that if you can win in Pittsburgh you can win anywhere," said Coyotes forward Shane Doan, who helped set up Mikkel Boedker’s tiebreaking goal in the second period for one of his two assists.
"It was a big win. A really big win."
In the midst of an 8-3-1 stretch, Phoenix increased its lead to three points over Dallas for the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference and built some much-needed momentum while Smith remains day-to-day.
A Canadian Olympian who had a 1.88 goals-against average while winning seven of nine prior to Saturday’s 4-2 home loss to East-leading Boston, Smith is expected to be evaluated when the team returns home Friday.
Backup Thomas Greiss snapped an 0-2-1 skid by making 23 saves against the Penguins to improve to 8-5-2 with a 2.35 GAA this season.
"It would be easy to say, ‘Smitty’s out, this guy’s out, that guy’s out,’ but the leadership in the room really stepped up and made sure there was no lull in our game," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. "The effort was very determined (Tuesday) and we got a valuable two points."
Converting a West-leading 20.8 percent of their power-play chances, the Coyotes are 6 for 25 (24.0 percent) while recording a power-play goal in six consecutive contests.
Doan, who assisted on Antoine Vermette’s goal with the man-advantage on Tuesday, has five assists in his last six road contests.
The Coyotes conclude their three-game eastern trip looking for a third straight victory and seventh in nine games against the Devils (31-28-13), who fell 3-2 at Phoenix on Jan. 18. Though Phoenix’s two losses over the last eight meetings came in its last two trips to New Jersey, the Coyotes haven’t played there since December 2010.
The Devils are 11th in the East and five points out of wild-card position, but remain hopeful with only three of their final 10 games coming against teams that have already clinched a playoff berth or remain serious contenders.
"I know the statistics don’t say that but I really feel we can win every game," Devils coach Pete DeBoer said.
New Jersey won for the second time in three games, 3-2 over Toronto on Sunday. Rookie defenseman Jon Merrill had a goal with an assist and Damien Brunner scored in his return from missing two games with a lower-body injury.
With a goal against the Maple Leafs, New Jersey’s Patrik Elias has scored 10 of his 17 goals over his last 20 games. Though he didn’t have a point at Phoenix in January, Elias has six goals and six assists in 10 career home games against the Coyotes.
Martin Brodeur will get the start for the Devils after Cory Schneider made 21 saves against the Maple Leafs. Brodeur stopped 24 shots in the loss to the Coyotes in January.