After building some momentum with three consecutive home wins,
the Phoenix Coyotes’ first road game in a month didn’t seem to faze
Based on their history against the Atlanta Thrashers, their next
stop shouldn’t either.
Phoenix looks to run its winning streak to five Sunday as it
continues a four-game road trip against the fading Thrashers, who
have lost five straight overall and can claim only one victory in
franchise history against the Coyotes.
While Phoenix (41-22-5) may have been a surprise in the season’s
first half, the success of one of the NHL’s youngest teams can
hardly be considered startling anymore.
The Coyotes went into the Olympic break on a two-game losing
streak and fell to St. Louis in their first game after, but have
since gotten back on track. Phoenix beat Colorado, Anaheim and
Vancouver before hitting the road, then got two goals apiece from
Lee Stempniak and Martin Hanzal on Saturday to kick off its swing
with a 4-0 win over Carolina.
Ilya Bryzgalov made 29 saves for his NHL-leading eighth
“Just a solid road game,” Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said.
“(Bryzgalov) cleaned up the few chances that we gave up, but other
than that we had a real good group effort.”
Stempniak, who came over from last-place Toronto on March 3, has
looked like a world-class sniper in his first four games with the
Coyotes. The winger scored 14 goals in 62 games with the Maple
Leafs, but has five goals and an assist so far with Phoenix playing
on the third line with Taylor Pyatt and Vernon Fiddler.
“(Stempniak’s) fit in very well with our team,” Tippett said.
“He’s a hard-working guy. He likes to play the style that we play
and is getting rewarded around the net with some real good puck
play. He’s been a very positive player for us.”
Stempniak has three goals and an assist in his last four games
against the Thrashers (28-29-10), but his new team may not need him
to get by Atlanta. The Coyotes are 10-1-0 with a tie in series
history, though the teams have met just once in the past three
While Phoenix has a two-point lead on Los Angeles for the
Western Conference’s fourth seed and home-ice advantage in the
first round, Atlanta’s playoff chances are dwindling.
Just two points out of the East’s eighth spot heading into the
break, the Thrashers pulled into a tie for the final playoff slot
after winning their first two games following the Olympics.
Suddenly, though, Atlanta’s offense has disappeared. The
Thrashers are now six points behind eighth-place Boston after
totaling six goals during a five-game losing streak, including
Friday’s 5-2 loss to the New York Rangers.
“Obviously, we have to win some games,” coach John Anderson
said. “I think we pretty much have to win out at home, since we
have a lot of home games. … It looks bleak, but it can change
Six of Atlanta’s next seven are at Philips Arena, where Chris
Chelios made his home debut Friday. The 48-year-old, 11-time
All-Star defenseman might not be the ideal candidate to lift the
Thrashers’ offense out of the doldrums, but he knows a thing or two
about making the postseason.
“You have to keep things simple,” said Chelios, now in his 26th
season. “You have to play playoff hockey. Every goal is huge.”