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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Saturday, December 21st (All times Eastern)

Phoenix Coyotes (18-10-6) at Ottawa Senators (14-17-6), 2 p.m.

(SportsNetwork.com) - A pair of struggling clubs will fight for a much-needed win on Saturday afternoon, as the Ottawa Senators welcome the Phoenix Coyotes for a battle at Canadian Tire Centre.

The Coyotes enter Saturday's matinee on a three-game slide and also have dropped five of seven and nine of their last 13 tilts. Ottawa hasn't fared much better recently, losing two straight as part of a 6-10-2 stretch over its last 18 games.

Phoenix has lost the first two tests on a four-game road trip, giving the Coyotes four defeats in their past five games as the guest. The club is only 8-7-4 as the road team this season and will complete the trek Monday in Buffalo.

After dropping a 3-1 decision Tuesday in Montreal, the Coyotes were dealt a 2-1 shootout setback by the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday. James van Riemsdyk and Joffrey Lupul both scored in the shootout to help the Leafs snap a two-game slide with the close win at Air Canada Centre.

Martin Hanzal tied the game late in the third for Phoenix, while Mike Smith stopped 26-of-27 shots through regulation and overtime.

"We wanted to play a hard road game. Our tempo got better as the game went on. We had multiple opportunities in the third period to tie and then take the lead. We got the one we needed," said Coyotes coach Dave Tippett. "It's a step in the right direction. We're a little banged up and looking for some guys to elevate their game."

Coyotes captain Shane Doan has missed the last six games with an illness that Phoenix has categorized as Rocky Mountain fever. Doan is on medication to battle the bacterial disease and his status is considered week-to-week.

Defenseman Zbynek Michalek will miss a second straight contest today for the Coyotes and is out indefinitely with a lower-body injury.

The Senators, meanwhile, could be without forward Mika Zibanejad on Saturday after he sustained an upper-body injury in Ottawa's most recent loss, a 4-2 home defeat on Thursday against Florida. Zibanejad, who has eight goals and seven assists this season, is considered day-to-day and will be a game-time decision for this afternoon's tilt.

Ottawa lost its second straight game in regulation on Thursday despite going into the closing minutes of the third period tied with the Panthers. Tom Gilbert scored the go-ahead power-play goal for Florida with 2:32 remaining in the third and Tomas Kopecky added the insurance tally just 51 seconds later with a shorthanded goal.

Chris Neil and Jason Spezza scored for the Senators, who have dropped four of six. Craig Anderson took the loss despite 31 stops.

"It's my job to stop the puck," said Anderson. "It's one of those things where we were there, we were close (to winning). But close isn't good enough."

The Senators, who began a three-game homestand on Thursday, fell to 7-10-3 as the host this season. Ottawa will close the residency when it welcomes Pittsburgh to town on Monday.

Ottawa has gotten the better of the Coyotes in recent years, claiming seven of the past nine overall encounters in this series and winning six straight on home ice. Phoenix's last win in Canada's capital city came on Dec. 12, 1998.

12/21 10:39:19 ET

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