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Shea-ved Ice: Coyotes Vs. Penguins Preview

By: Casey Shea
(Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The Pittsburgh Penguins will be looking to keep up their winning ways when they play host to the Phoenix Coyotes Monday night at CONSOL Energy Center.

On Saturday, the Penguins exploded for three quick goals in the first period en route to a 5-1 win over the Colorado Avalanche. Their winning streak currently sits at five games.

With the win, the Penguins now have 81 points in the standings, which is two ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers and four ahead of the New Jersey Devils in the Atlantic Division. The Penguins still trail the New York Rangers by 10 points.

Their 81 points are good enough for second overall in the conference, but due to the rule about division leaders being guaranteed one of the top three seeds in the playoffs, the Penguins sit fourth in the East heading into tonight’s game.

The Coyotes are currently tied with the Dallas Stars for the Pacific Division lead with 75 points, thanks in large part to an 11-0-1 record in the month of February.

However, the Coyotes have lost their last two games, including a 5-2 thumping by the lowly Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday.

Veteran Ray Whitney continues to produce and leads the Coyotes with 59 points (20 goals, 39 assists). Whitney has also enjoyed success against the Penguins in his career with 47 points (14 goals, 33 assists) in 43 career games.

Radim Vrbata isn’t far behind Whitney with 54 points and leads the team with 30 goals.

Goaltending was the big question for Phoenix at the start of the year after Ilya Bryzgalov departed for Philadelphia.

However, Mike Smith has put together an incredible season so far with a 29-16-7 record to go along with his 2.29 GAA and .925 save percentage.

Against the Penguins, Smith is 3-5 with a 2.51 GAA and a .893 save percentage with two shutouts.

For Pittsburgh, tonight’s game will be the first of a four-game homestand this week.

This will be the only meeting between the two teams this season. Last season, the Penguins earned a 4-3 shootout win over the Coyotes on the road on Nov. 6. They followed that performance with a 6-1 drubbing of the Coyotes at CONSOL Energy Center on Dec. 20.

Evgeni Malkin had five points in the last meeting and is currently tied with Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos for the NHL lead in points with 80.

In Saturday’s win over the Avalanche, Malkin recorded his 38th goal of the season in just his 57th game.

In goal, Marc-Andre Fleury made 28 saves against Colorado to improve to 34-14-3 this year. Against the Coyotes, Fleury is 2-1 with a 2.25 GAA and a .911 save percentage.

The puck is set to drop at 7 p.m. and you can watch the game on Root Sports.

You can follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/sheavedice

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