Ducks Take on Coyotes

Ilya Bryzgalov's strong play in goal has been a major reason for the Phoenix Coyotes' surprising success. They can thank the Anaheim Ducks for making it possible.

Bryzgalov looks for his second straight victory over his former team Saturday as the Coyotes try for a fourth consecutive win overall when they host the Ducks.

Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made Phoenix -122 money line favorites (NHL Odds) for today's game, the over/under has been set at 5 goals (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 50% of bets for this game have been placed on Anaheim +112 View NHL Bet Percentages).

Prior to the season, it seemed unlikely that in January, Phoenix (20-18-1) would have one fewer win and be just six points back of the defending Stanley Cup champion Ducks (21-17-5), who are third in the Pacific Division. But while Anaheim was inconsistent for the first half of the season, the Coyotes have been one of the NHL's biggest surprises after finishing 31-46-5 and last in the Western Conference in 2006-07.

One key to Phoenix's improvement has been the play of Bryzgalov, who is 11-8-1 since being claimed off waivers from Anaheim on Nov. 17.

Bryzgalov, who has a .923 save percentage and a 2.22 goals-against average with the Coyotes, won his first meeting against the Ducks - the team with which he spent four-plus seasons as a back up to Jean-Sebastien Giguere - 4-3 in a shootout at Anaheim on Nov. 23.

"You have to play hard, even if it's against your old team,'' said Bryzgalov, who went 9-5 with three shutouts and a 1.68 GAA in the playoffs while with the Ducks. "You have to be professional when you step on the ice to win the game no matter what, but we have friendships after the game. It was an unforgettable time in Anaheim.''

Bryzgalov rested and watched as teammate Mikael Tellqvist made 23 saves in a 4-2 win over Chicago on Thursday. Bryzgalov, who had started the previous seven games and 18 of 19, will try for a third straight win Saturday for Phoenix, which is 3-1-0 versus Anaheim this season.

On Thursday, Radim Vrbata tied a career high with his 18th goal and added an assist for the Coyotes, who improved to 6-4-1 in their last 11 home games.

Vrbata, who has five goals during four-game goal-scoring streak, has four goals and two assists versus Anaheim this season. He had two goals and one assist in the most recent meeting.

Shane Doan, the Coyotes' leading scorer with 33 points, could return after missing Thursday's game with a hand injury.

Anaheim beat Chicago 2-1 at home on Friday for its second straight win and sixth in its last eight games. Corey Perry scored his team-leading 21st goal 16 seconds into the contest and added an assist for the Ducks.

"For whatever reason, not very often have we scored the first goal. But we build momentum as the game goes along,'' Anaheim's Sean O'Donnell said. "It's certainly not a habit we want to get into. Our goal has to be to play the way we want to play for 60 minutes.''

Perry has three goals and an assist against the Coyotes this season, with two of the goals and the assist coming Nov. 3, in the Ducks' 5-2 win at Phoenix.

Giguere, who was battling the flu Friday, could be back in goal in Saturday after watching rookie Jonas Hiller make 20 saves against the Blackhawks.

Giguere made 30 saves on Nov. 3 in his only start against Phoenix this season. He's won his last four starts versus the Coyotes overall while compiling a 1.99 GAA during that streak.

by: Staff Writers - Email Us

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