Coyotes return home to face Hurricanes

( – After claiming the finale of an eight-game road trip,
the Arizona Coyotes return home seeking a third straight victory as they
tangle with the Carolina Hurricanes.

The Coyotes concluded their swing with a 4-1 triumph over the Columbus Blue
Jackets on Tuesday. It gave Arizona a 3-3-2 mark on the trip as it has won
three of the last four following a seven-game losing streak.

Mike Smith, who gave up five goals on 20 shots over 42 minutes in losing his
previous start, made 30 saves for the Coyotes, while Oliver Ekman-Larsson and
Shane Doan netted power-play goals.

Ekman-Larsson matched a career high set last season with his 15th goal, which
also leads all NHL defenseman this season.

Lucas Lessio and Tobias Rieder added goals and both Keith Yandle and Antoine
Vermette had two assists.

“We’re trying to come together as a team and play well for each other, for the
organization and our fans,” Yandle said.

Arizona hasn’t won three in a row since Dec. 23-29 and figures to start Smith
tonight. He is 3-8-3 lifetime versus the Hurricanes with a 2.97 goals against
average and .909 save percentage in 14 games (13 starts).

Carolina tries to avoid a fourth consecutive setback tonight, falling to 0-1-2
in its past three with Tuesday’s overtime loss to the Anaheim Ducks.

The Ducks scored the final two goals of the third period, evening the score
with 4:08 left in regulation, then got the game-winner off the stick of Ryan
Getzlaf 45 seconds into overtime for a 5-4 decision.

Jordan Staal, Alex Semin, Jay McClement and Brad Malone scored once each for
the Hurricanes, while Anton Khudobin was on the hook for all five goals on 31

Malone scored his fourth goal in six games this season after having just one
through his first 33 contests as he converted a penalty-shot chance at 4:01 of
the third period.

“Once you get an opportunity you obviously want to make the most of it. To
stay in the lineup I have to do the little things to make our team better. If
I’m fortunate enough to get a bounce and find the back of the net, that’s
obviously an added bonus,” Malone said of his first career penalty-shot score.

The Hurricanes play the third contest of a four-game swing that wraps on
Saturday in San Jose and are hoping Cam Ward can make the start tonight.

Ward has not skated with the club for two straight days because of a nagging
lower-body issue. He is expected to get the call tonight, however, barring a

Ward is 4-4-0 with a 3.15 GAA and .890 save percentage in eight matchups with
the Coyotes, all but one of those starts. That includes a 25-save shutout for
a 3-0 win on Nov. 1 and Elias Lindholm backed his netminder with a pair of

Smith yielded all three goals on 35 shots faced for Arizona.

The Hurricanes have won two straight in this series and each of the past three
as the visiting team.