Coyotes-Flames Preview

The Phoenix Coyotes used a February surge to climb to the top of

the Pacific Division, but March got off to a rough start after a

matchup with the Calgary Flames.

Now the Flames are one of the hottest teams in the NHL, while

the Coyotes are clinging to seventh place in the Western


Calgary looks to gain more ground on Phoenix when the teams meet

Thursday night at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

The Coyotes went 11-0-1 last month in one of their signature

late-season runs, though they haven’t been able to carry over that

success. Beginning with a 4-2 loss to the Flames (33-25-12) on

March 1 – ending a six-game winning streak in the series – Phoenix

lost six of seven before beating Vancouver 5-4 on Wednesday.

Ray Whitney had three assists and Antoine Vermette had a goal

and two assists for the Coyotes (35-25-11), who are one point ahead

of eighth-place Colorado and three in front of Calgary, San Jose

and Los Angeles, which are all tied for ninth.

Mike Smith, who won all 11 of his February starts with a 1.42

goals-against average, is 2-3-1 with a 3.11 GAA over his last six

starts after making 39 saves Wednesday.

“If we play well and get our own points, we can control our own

destiny on whether we make the playoffs or not,” coach Dave Tippett

said. “To come out and get points like this is huge for our


The Flames’ last victory over the Coyotes began a 5-1-1 run, and

they’ve won four straight after a 3-2 overtime victory over San

Jose on Tuesday.

Coach Brent Sutter said each game has a playoff-like feel to it

as his team tries to fight its way into the postseason picture.

“You look at the standings and these teams you’re playing,

they’re all emotional games,” Sutter said. “They just get bigger as

they go along.”

Matt Stajan scored the winner to give him two goals and three

assists during a four-game point streak.

“The feeling of winning games, the mood in the locker room is

contagious right now,” Stajan said. “Things happen easier for our

team when we’re playing with confidence, and it just shows how

tight of a group (we have) and how bad we want this.”

Jarome Iginla also scored to give him 30 goals in 11 consecutive

seasons, becoming only the seventh player in league history to

accomplish that feat. He has goals in five straight during his

seven-game point streak – which began with a goal and an assist

against the Coyotes – while totaling seven goals and six assists

during his run.

”I’ve been very fortunate as a shooter to play with some great

passers over the years and I’d love to keep it going, but the

biggest thing, definitely, is this playoff run and the win,”

Iginla said.

Miikka Kiprusoff made 29 saves to improve to 5-0-1 with a 2.60

GAA in a run that began after stopping 29 shots versus Phoenix. He

had gone 0-3-1 with a 3.22 GAA in his four previous starts against

the Coyotes.

Whitney had a goal and an assist before netting the shootout

winner in a 4-3 win in Calgary on Feb. 23, helping Phoenix to its

third straight road win in the series.