Coyotes-Sabres Preview

The Phoenix Coyotes would prefer to go into their Christmas

break on a winning streak. The Buffalo Sabres just snapped only

their second of the season.

The Coyotes look to conclude their four-game road trip with a

second straight victory over a struggling opponent when they visit

the NHL-worst Sabres on Monday night.

Phoenix (19-10-6) broke out of an offensive slump and snapped a

three-game slide with a 4-3 overtime win over Ottawa in overtime

Saturday.

The Coyotes had been limited to one goal in each game of the

losing streak, but Antoine Vermette matched those three goals on

his own against the Senators, scoring at 2:23 of OT to complete a

hat trick.

The former Ottawa player’s power-play goal with 2:13 left in

regulation forced the extra session.

“It was huge,” Vermette said. “They were crucial points because

the standings are so tight in the (Western Conference). It was a

good performance and we found a way to get the two points.”

Phoenix has a good chance to keep it going against the Sabres

(9-24-3) before the league takes a short break for the holiday.

Buffalo has won back-to-back games only twice this season, the

second streak ending with Saturday’s 4-1 road loss that closed a

home-and-home set with Boston.

The Coyotes resume play against Pacific Division-rival San Jose

next Friday, while the Sabres return to the ice the same night in

Toronto.

Phoenix could use another strong road performance from Vermette.

The center is tied with Shane Doan for the team lead with 12 goals,

nine of which have come away from home. Vermette has six points in

his past eight in Buffalo, but this will be his first game there

with Phoenix.

Doan, meanwhile, will miss his eighth straight with what the

team called a “form of Rocky Mountain fever,” a bacterial disease

that affects cells in the lining of blood vessels.

“Our medical team is on top of it,” said Phoenix general manager

Don Maloney. “Every day he seems like he’s getting a little better

and a little more energy and has started to exercise a little

more.”

Mike Smith was the star during the team’s most recent trip to

Buffalo, making 43 saves in a 4-2 victory on Nov. 19, 2011. He’s

won three straight against Sabres with a 1.33 goals-against

average.

Smith, who stopped 37 shots against Ottawa, could get the nod

against a Sabres team averaging a league-low 1.67 goals.

“It’s tough to win in this league if you only have one line

going and a couple of other guys and a goaltender,” interim Sabres

coach Ted Nolan said. “Especially with us, we need a little bit

more.”

Buffalo, however, has recently shown some improvement by going

3-1-1 at home in December, including a pair of 4-2 victories in its

last two.

A win over Phoenix would give the Sabres their longest home

winning streak since a five-game run from Feb. 19-March 12,

2012.

Ryan Miller will likely be back in net after winning three

straight home starts behind a 1.62 GAA. He’s also won all four of

his meetings with the Coyotes, compiling a 0.99 GAA and one

shutout, though he hasn’t faced them since Jan. 8, 2011.

Jhonas Enroth, who made 35 saves Saturday, started opposite

Smith in the most recent matchup with Phoenix and stopped 25 of 28

shots.

Marcus Foligno has two goals and one assist over his past two

home games. He scored a goal, recorded an assist and got into a

fight against the Bruins on Thursday for the Gordie Howe hat

trick.