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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Saturday, March 22nd (All times Eastern)

Boston Bruins (48-17-5) at Phoenix Coyotes (34-25-11), 9 p.m.

(SportsNetwork.com) - The Phoenix Coyotes will try to record a fourth straight win on Saturday to help boost their playoff odds.

The Boston Bruins already have clinched a postseason berth, but will take aim at a 12th consecutive victory when they visit the Coyotes at Jobing.com Arena.

Phoenix enters Saturday with 79 points, giving the club a four-point edge over Dallas for the second of the Western Conference's two wild card spots. The Stars, who host Ottawa on Saturday, do hold a game in hand over the Coyotes in the race for the West's final postseason berth.

Vancouver is five points behind the Coyotes and Winnipeg is one point further back in the heated battle for the second wild card spot. The Canucks are off on Saturday, while the Jets host Carolina.

The Coyotes picked up a third straight win in Thursday's 2-1 home decision against the Florida Panthers. Mike Smith made 22 saves to help Phoenix pick up the valuable points.

Smith has fueled Phoenix's push to the playoffs, going 9-5-1 with a .937 save percentage and 1.86 goals against average over his last 15 games. He is 3-7-0 with a 2.48 GAA and .914 save percentage in 10 lifetime appearances against Boston.

Radim Vrbata and Antoine Vermette scored in the first period for the Coyotes, who trail Minnesota by four points for the first wild card spot in the West.

The Bruins, meanwhile, became the first team to clinch a playoff spot this season when they picked up an 11th straight win by blanking the Colorado Avalanche, 2-0, on Friday night.

Backup goaltender Chad Johnson gave Tuukka Rask a rest and earned his third career shutout with a 31-save performance.

"I definitely had some bad rebounds and those guys did a great job cleaning it up for me," Johnson said.

Patrice Bergeron and Carl Soderberg scored for the Bruins, who last won 11 straight during a 13-game run from Feb. 23-March 20, 1971.

Boston also tied St. Louis for the most points in the league with 101. The Blues hold a game in hand over the Bruins and play Saturday in Philadelphia.

The B's lead the Eastern Conference by six points over Pittsburgh, which hosts Tampa Bay on Saturday. The Lightning trail Boston by 16 points for the Atlantic Division lead.

The Bruins recorded a 2-1 home win over the Coyotes on March 13, as Zdeno Chara and Jarome Iginla notched first-period goals and Rask stopped 21-of-22 shots for the win.

Boston has won three straight meetings in this series overall and has claimed two of the last three encounters in the desert.

The Coyotes are 21-11-3 as the host this season and have won four in a row at Jobing.com Arena.

Rask expects to start Saturday for Boston. The Finnish netminder is 2-1-0 with a 1.99 GAA and .925 save percentage in three career games against Phoenix.

03/22 10:54:24 ET

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