The surging Phoenix Coyotes are battling to stay in front in an extremely tight Pacific Division race. The Atlanta Thrashers are quickly falling out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
Phoenix looks to win its sixth straight Thursday night when it hosts the struggling Thrashers, who have never won a road game in the series and have lost 11 of 13 all-time matchups.
Phoenix (30-19-9) has allowed six goals while killing off 16 of 18 penalties during its winning streak. The Coyotes blocked a season-high 20 shots in a 3-2 victory over Washington on Monday.
"Great penalty killing was required, hard work ethic and sacrifice," Ilya Bryzgalov said after making 29 saves. "We did this with blocking shots and making some saves, and sometimes it was lucky. This is the key."
Since a 1-4-0 stretch in which he posted a 3.94 goals-against average, Bryzgalov has recorded a 1.18 GAA during the five-game win streak.
He has started the last 16 games.
Phoenix regained the division lead with Monday's victory, but Anaheim, Dallas and San Jose were a point back heading into Wednesday's action.
"(Taking over the division lead) doesn't mean a whole lot to be honest with you," forward Ray Whitney, who has a goal and six assists in the last four games, told the Coyotes' official website. "Just wait a day and we'll be back in fourth. That's how tight this (division) is right now.
" ... If you win five in a row you just kind of hold your head above water and if you lose five in a row you're going to be out a long way. We realize that for the rest of the way in it's going to be pretty tight like that."
The Coyotes are looking to close their homestand with their first 5-0 stretch at Jobing.com Arena since a seven-game run to end 2009-10.
They'll face a Thrashers team that's struggling to stay in playoff contention as it opens a three-game trip.
Atlanta (25-23-10) fell two points behind Carolina for the final East playoff spot with a 3-2 home loss to the Hurricanes on Sunday, its 12th defeat in 15 games.
"It's a tough one, obviously. I thought we played well for the majority of the game. But there's still a lot of hockey to be played," captain Andrew Ladd said. "We've got to put it behind us and move on."
The Thrashers, though, have gone 0-5-1 with a tie all-time in Arizona. In the teams' last meeting -- the third straight decided past regulation -- the visiting Coyotes won their fourth in a row in the series, 3-2 in a shootout March 14.
Ondrej Pavelec, who made 32 saves in that game, is 1-4-1 with a 3.51 GAA in six starts this month. He allowed the winning goal to Erik Cole with 1:19 remaining Sunday.
Leading scorer Dustin Byfuglien, who signed a five-year, $26 million extension Tuesday, has two points in his last 16 games -- both of which have come in the last three contests. The first-time All-Star posted his only career hat trick in a 6-1 Chicago victory over Phoenix on Nov. 30, 2007.
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