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Scoring has suddenly become difficult for the Anaheim Ducks. They've rarely had that problem against the Phoenix Coyotes, though, and neither have most teams.
The Ducks look to avoid being shut out in a third straight game for the first time since their inaugural season when they visit the lowly Coyotes on Thursday.
Anaheim (33-16-8) has lost three straight and has been shut out in three of its last five. If the Ducks are held scoreless against Phoenix (25-30-2) it would tie a franchise-worst stretch of three straight shutouts set from March 6-9, 1994.
"The guys in the dressing room have to turn it around," Anaheim leading scorer Teemu Selanne said. "We need more confidence to score right now, and it's a little frustrating."
The Ducks are near the top of the Western Conference thanks partly to an offense that ranks among the NHL's leaders with 3.16 goals per game.
Anaheim has been even better against Phoenix in recent seasons. The Ducks are 14-1-2 with a tie against the Coyotes since Nov. 8, 2003, outscoring them 62-37, and are 4-1-0 in the series this season.
Defense has hardly been a strength for Phoenix. The Coyotes have given up 14 goals during a three-game losing streak, and rank 26th in the league with 3.39 allowed per game.
Anaheim, though, is in danger of matching its longest losing streak of the season, set from Dec. 29-Jan. 5, and has gone 139:16 without finding the net. The Ducks fell 2-0 at Colorado on Tuesday night, three days after a 1-0 loss at Dallas.
Selanne, who leads the team with 32 goals, has one in his last six games. He has nine goals and 23 points in his last 13 games against Phoenix.
A loss Thursday would give Phoenix a season-worst four straight for the third time. The Coyotes, who dropped four in a row twice in the first month of the season, concluded a four-game road trip with a 5-3 defeat to Tampa Bay on Tuesday night.
Goals by Phoenix's Mike Zigomanis and Oleg Saprykin evened the score at 2 midway through the first period, and the Coyotes pulled even at 3 with 1:44 left in the second on Derek Morris' first goal in 26 games before the Lightning scored a pair of unanswered goals in the third.
Saprykin skated slowly off the ice late in the second period after blocking a pair of shots with his legs, but returned for the third. Phoenix forward Owen Nolan (sore neck) missed his first game of the season and his status for Thursday's game is uncertain.
"He took warmup and he said he couldn't play," Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky said.
Center Yanic Perreault, second on the team with 18 goals, returned after missing one game with an injured shoulder, while forward Mathias Tjarnqvist, acquired from Dallas on Monday for Ladislav Nagy, made his debut for Phoenix and played just over 12 minutes - his second-highest total of the season.
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