By Brett Huston
Anaheim (42-33-6) at Phoenix (35-39-7), 8:00 p.m. EDT
GLENDALE, Arizona (AP) -- The Anaheim Ducks locked up a playoff
berth with a win in their latest game, but they may not know
their opponent until the final day of the regular season.
With a victory in their finale, though, they can remove one
potential heavyweight from the equation.
On Saturday night, the Ducks can ensure themselves no worse than
the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference as they visit the
Phoenix Coyotes, who will conclude a seventh consecutive season
without a trip to the playoffs.
Anaheim (42-33-6) was in 12th place in the West before facing
Nashville on March 18, but turned its season around starting
that night. The Ducks beat the Predators 4-3 in overtime,
kick-starting a 10-2-0 run that has made them one of hockey's
Anaheim wrapped up a spot in the West's top eight on Friday,
knocking off Dallas 4-3 in a shootout to eliminate potential
spoiler Minnesota and pull even with St. Louis at 90 points
"We've been playing like a playoff team the last month," said
forward Teemu Selanne, who scored the shootout winner. "I think
we just woke up at the last second."
The Blues and the Ducks have one game left - St. Louis wraps up
its season Sunday at last-place Colorado - but Anaheim will
ensure itself no worse than seventh if it can beat Phoenix
(35-39-7) by virtue of having more wins than the Blues.
That would pit the Ducks against defending Stanley Cup champion
Detroit, but allow them to avoid top-seeded San Jose. Anaheim is
1-3-0 against the Red Wings and 2-4-0 against the Sharks.
It can still move up to sixth - and a first-round matchup with
Vancouver or Calgary - with a win and a Columbus regulation loss
against the Wild on Saturday.
Goaltender Jonas Hiller has been stellar during the Ducks' hot
streak, going 8-1-0 with a 2.34 goals-against average, and he's
been outstanding this season against the Coyotes. Anaheim lost
its first meeting with Phoenix 4-2 on Oct. 12 with
Jean-Sebastien Giguere in net, but Hiller is 4-0-0 with a 1.72
GAA and a shutout versus the Coyotes, including two wins in the
past three weeks.
He's won six straight starts against Phoenix dating to March 22,
The Coyotes have had nothing to do other than play spoiler for a
few weeks, but in their most recent game they turned in one of
their more impressive performances of the season.
All San Jose needed to do was earn a victory at home on Thursday
night to clinch the Presidents' Trophy, but rookie Al Montoya
made 40 saves in his fourth NHL start to help the Coyotes post a
stunning 4-1 win.
"You knew they were going to come out flying, (because) this is
their biggest night," said Montoya, who has allowed one goal or
fewer in three of his four starts. "It feels good coming into a
building like this with a playoff-like hockey environment. The
atmosphere was unreal. I just wanted to go out there and prove
Shane Doan, who leads the Coyotes with 31 goals and 71 points,
has scored in two of Montoya's starts. He's had no problem
scoring against Anaheim, notching five goals in five games.