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Greiss, Coyotes welcome Sabres to the desert

(SportsNetwork.com) - The Phoenix Coyotes may be set to play under a different name next season, but there isn't too much they would change about their most recent effort on the ice.

The Coyotes try to resume their five-game homestand with another victory on Thursday night as they battle the Buffalo Sabres.

The franchise announced on Wednesday that, effective next season, the club will drop Phoenix from its team name in favor of going by the Arizona Coyotes.

The club has carried the Phoenix moniker since arriving from Winnipeg in 1996 but the team hasn't played in Arizona's capital since relocating to the city's northwestern suburbs for the 2003-04 season.

One day prior, the Coyotes bested the Los Angeles Kings by a 3-0 score, getting 30 saves from Thomas Greiss and a pair of goals by defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

Phoenix began its homestand by winning for just the fourth time in its last 11 games and is three points behind Vancouver for the eighth spot in the Western Conference.

"We played really hard, physical," Greiss said. "We didn't give them much. It should give us confidence for the future."

Shane Doan logged his 500th career assist and Antoine Vermette followed up a hat trick in Sunday's loss to Vancouver with his 19th goal of the season. He has six tallies and two assists over a five-game point streak.

Greiss, meanwhile, was making his first start since getting pulled early versus Anaheim on Jan. 11 and logged his second shutout of the season as well as the third of his career. He earned another outing tonight from coach Dave Tippett and will face Buffalo for the first time.

The backup is 7-3-1 with a 2.00 goals against average and .935 save percentage in 13 games (9 starts) this season.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson had two goals for the Coyotes, who started a five-game homestand with just their fourth victory in 11 games.

It might not be a bad idea to give No. 1 starter Mike Smith another break tonight. Smith was the victim of an unfortunate bounce when these clubs last met in Buffalo on Dec. 23, a 2-1 overtime victory over the Sabres.

In that contest, Buffalo's Mark Pysyk fired a shot from near the right circle 3:47 into the extra session that was initially stopped by Smith, but the puck bounced straight up into the air and was batted down by a Phoenix defender and landed in the back of Smith's pants.

Smith, unaware of the disc wedged in his pants, turned and slid backwards into the net carrying the puck across the goal line for the game-winner.

"If they (the officials) don't see the puck they're supposed to blow the whistle. That didn't happen," said Smith after that game. "I didn't feel it at all. I didn't know what happened. I know the puck went up in the air but I had no idea where it went after that."

Ryan Miller made 36 saves for the Sabres to remain unbeaten in his career versus the Coyotes. He has won all five previous starts with a 0.98 GAA and one shutout.

The Sabres have won seven of their last eight versus the Coyotes overall and have taken their last three trips to the desert by an 11-3 margin.

Miller got Tuesday off after giving up two goals on 33 shots in 3-0 setback to Pittsburgh the previous night and backup Jhonas Enroth made 30 saves in a 5-4 overtime loss to the Washington Capitals.

The setback, the Sabres' seventh in their last eight games, spoiled Philip Varone's first career goal as well as two markers by Cody Hodgson.

Varone lit the lamp for the first time in his fourth NHL game.

"I mean, it's every kid's dream," said the 23-year-old Varone. "I've thought about it a lot ever since I was called up. It took me 27 games to get my first pro goal in the AHL, so this one came a little bit sooner. It's a good weight off the shoulders."

Christian Ehrhoff also scored and both Matt Moulson and Tyler Ennis had two assists in defeat as Buffalo sits last in the NHL standings with 36 points.

01/30 11:00:56 ET

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Sunday, April 20Full Scoreboard
Philadelphia01st Prd 5:54 | Box
NY Rangers2@theRink | TV: NBC, TSN
Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, Game Two. New York leads series, 1-0.
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Standings

2013 - 2014 NHL Eastern Conference Standings
 
Atlantic Division W L OTL Pts GF GA Home Away Div
p-Boston 54 19 9 117 261 177 31-7-3 23-12-6 18-9-3
x-Tampa Bay 46 27 9 101 240 215 25-10-6 21-17-3 19-8-3
x-Montreal 46 28 8 100 215 204 23-13-5 23-15-3 18-8-4
x-Detroit 39 28 15 93 222 230 18-13-10 21-15-5 17-8-5
Ottawa 37 31 14 88 236 265 18-17-6 19-14-8 14-9-7
Toronto 38 36 8 84 231 256 24-16-1 14-20-7 14-13-3
Florida 29 45 8 66 196 268 16-20-5 13-25-3 13-16-1
Buffalo 21 51 10 52 157 248 13-21-7 8-30-3 7-18-5
 
Metropolitan Division W L OTL Pts GF GA Home Away Div
y-Pittsburgh 51 24 7 109 249 207 28-9-4 23-15-3 20-8-2
x-NY Rangers 45 31 6 96 218 193 20-17-4 25-14-2 16-11-3
x-Philadelphia 42 30 10 94 236 235 24-14-3 18-16-7 15-11-4
x-Columbus 43 32 7 93 231 216 22-15-4 21-17-3 16-13-1
Washington 38 30 14 90 235 240 21-13-7 17-17-7 12-15-3
New Jersey 35 29 18 88 197 208 21-11-9 14-18-9 16-9-5
Carolina 36 35 11 83 207 230 18-17-6 18-18-5 15-13-2
NY Islanders 34 37 11 79 225 267 13-19-9 21-18-2 10-16-4
 
x= clinched playoff berth
y= clinched division title
z= clinched overall points title
2013 - 2014 NHL Western Conference Standings
 
Central Division W L OTL Pts GF GA Home Away Div
y-Colorado 52 22 8 112 250 220 26-11-4 26-11-4 19-6-3
x-St. Louis 52 23 7 111 248 191 28-9-4 24-14-3 21-6-2
x-Chicago 46 21 15 107 267 220 27-7-7 19-14-8 13-13-3
x-Minnesota 43 27 12 98 207 206 26-10-5 17-17-7 14-12-3
x-Dallas 40 31 11 91 235 228 23-11-7 17-20-4 13-11-5
Nashville 38 32 12 88 216 242 19-17-5 19-15-7 12-13-4
Winnipeg 37 35 10 84 227 237 18-17-6 19-18-4 9-15-5
 
Pacific Division W L OTL Pts GF GA Home Away Div
z-Anaheim 54 20 8 116 266 209 29-8-4 25-12-4 22-4-3
x-San Jose 51 22 9 111 249 200 29-7-5 22-15-4 18-7-3
x-Los Angeles 46 28 8 100 206 174 23-14-4 23-14-4 16-10-3
Phoenix 37 30 15 89 216 231 22-14-5 15-16-10 14-9-6
Vancouver 36 35 11 83 196 223 20-15-6 16-20-5 12-13-4
Calgary 35 40 7 77 209 241 19-19-3 16-21-4 11-15-3
Edmonton 29 44 9 67 203 270 16-22-3 13-22-6 8-17-4
 
x= clinched playoff berth
y= clinched division title
z= clinched overall points title
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