East-leading Pens take on Coyotes

2:27 PM, Feb 1, 2014   |    comments
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(SportsNetwork.com) - The Eastern Conference-leading Pittsburgh Penguins did pretty well for themselves in January and hope to continue that success on Saturday as they visit the Phoenix Coyotes.

The Penguins won the first of two in a row versus the Pacific Division on Thursday, besting the Los Angeles Kings 4-1. It gave Pittsburgh a victory in four of its last seven as well as a 9-2-1 record in January.

It is no surprise then that the Pens lead the East with 78 points.

While Sidney Crosby logged his NHL-leading 48th assist and 75th point of the season in the win, Jussi Jokinen was a big factor as he had a hand in all three first-period goals for Pittsburgh.

Jokinen assisted on Evgeni Malkin's marker 57 seconds into the game, then picked up the primary helper on Chris Kunitz's power-play goal at 10:50 before potting a tally of his own on the man advantage 57 seconds later.

"We had a really good first period getting that lead," Jokinen said. "They came back but then we got two big power-play goals and after that we played a pretty good second and decent third."

Tanner Glass scored Pittsburgh's other goal in the second and backup Jeff Zatkoff stopped 30 shots. Kunitz, meanwhile, has three goals and three assists in his last five games.

The league-leader in victories with 29, Marc-Andre Fleury will likely start this game and is 3-1-0 lifetime versus the Coyotes with a 1.95 goals against average.

Phoenix has split the first two of a five-game homestand and lost for the fourth time in six games on Thursday with a 3-2 setback to the Buffalo Sabres. The Coyotes got goals from Antoine Vermette and David Moss 18 seconds apart in the first period, but saw the Sabres score the go-ahead goal while shorthanded early in the third.

Thomas Greiss, coming off a 3-0 shutout win over Los Angeles on Tuesday, took the loss despite 25 stops.

"(The Sabres) just packed it in around the net and we wouldn't pay the price to get to the net," Phoenix head coach Dave Tippett said of his team's inability to score late.

While Vermette notched his fifth goal in three games, eighth in his last eight contests and 20th of the season, Moss scored for the first time in 17 games.

Mike Smith appears in line to return to the net tonight for the Coyotes and is 3-5-0 with a 2.46 GAA and two shutouts in nine games versus the Pens.

This is the first of two meetings this season between these clubs. The Penguins have won three straight and six of the last eight meetings overall, including three of the past four played in Arizona.

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