The Arizona Coyotes continue to exceed the expectations of just about everyone outside the organization as they continue their postseason push by hosting the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday. Arizona, which finished at the bottom of the Western Conference last season, was tabbed to do so again by most experts but instead owns the second wild-card spot in the West with a pair of challengers nipping at its heels.
"Anyone that's watched our team play the past two or three months, I think you see a hardworking team that's really found our identity,'' Coyotes forward Vinnie Hinostroza told reporters after scoring his 12th goal of the season in Tuesday's 3-1 victory at St. Louis. "Every day we approach it as a playoff game whether it's practice or a game." Arizona, which has won 12 of its last 16 contests, leads Minnesota by one point and Colorado by three while sitting two points behind Dallas for the top wild-card spot. Anaheim, which has plummeted in the standings after a 19-11-5 start, defeated Nashville 3-2 on Tuesday for its fourth victory in six games, and hopes to carry some momentum into the offseason while continuing to play the role of spoiler. The Ducks slowed the Coyotes' ascent into playoff position with a 3-1 victory March 5 in Arizona behind a goal and an assist from Jakob Silfverberg to even the season series 2-2.
TV: 10 p.m. ET, Prime Ticket (Anaheim), FS Arizona
ABOUT THE DUCKS (28-34-9): Ryan Getzlaf (team-high 41 points) scored his first goal in 12 games Tuesday and remains one assist shy of recording his 13th straight 30-assist season. Daniel Sprong has scored in three straight contests, giving him 12 in 37 contests since being acquired from Pittsburgh. Silfverberg (club-most 20 goals) has scored in the last two games and owns four goals and four assists during a career-high six-game point streak.
ABOUT THE COYOTES (35-30-5): Darcy Kuemper bounced back after allowing four goals on 16 shots in Monday's 7-1 loss at Chicago by making 39 saves against St. Louis. "Kuemps was great," coach Rick Tocchet told reporters. "Even when I pulled him and I went and talked to him after the game you could just tell, he was focused. There was no way I couldn't put him back in the net.'' Richard Panik (13 goals, 31 points), who will play his 400th career game if he dresses Thursday, has scored in two straight contests after tallying once in his previous 19 games.
1. Kuemper (23-16-5, 2.51 goals-against average, .920 save percentage) has started 11 straight games and is 10-2-0 in his last 12 starts.
2. Anaheim C Ryan Kesler (1,001 career games) has missed the last three contests with a hip injury and is questionable to play Thursday.
3. The Ducks have killed only 13-of-19 penalties in their last four games while the Coyotes are 1-for-17 on the power play in their past six contests.
PREDICTION: Coyotes 3, Ducks 2 Bet Now
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