GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — The Phoenix Coyotes earned four of a possible six points in three road games last week, which, in any other circumstance, would be considered a solid road trip.
At this point of this truncated season, stretches like that aren't going to be good enough for the inconsistent Coyotes.
With 13 games left and five teams between them and the Western Conference's final playoff spot, the time to win is now or the Coyotes' string of playoff appearances will end at three seasons.
"Now you're at the point you have to get points to keep yourself in the race; there's nothing in the middle here," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said Monday after practice at Jobing.com Arena. "It's one way or the other and you have to play well to win."
The Coyotes went into last week's three-game road swing calling it a crucial stretch in the season.
They didn't get much clarity one way or another in the standings after blowing out Nashville and letting leads — and precious points — slip away in games against Minnesota and San Jose, so the crucial stretch starts ... now.
Beginning with the rival Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday night, Phoenix plays three home games this week before playing seven of its final 10 on the road. Sitting 13th in the Western Conference standings, the Coyotes need to win games and get the two points instead of eking out a point or getting nothing, particularly at home.
"I think everybody in the league is viewing the home games as ultra-important," Tippett said. "Every game is so competitive it's like a playoff series, you want to hold home ice. That's the mindset of the games at home."
The Coyotes had a chance to make up ground last week, only to tread water by blowing late leads.
In its opening game of the trip, Phoenix seemed to be firmly in control against Minnesota, only to give up a goal with 54 seconds left and another in overtime to lose 4-3.
The Coyotes took out their frustrations on the Predators, whom they beat in last year's playoffs, by scoring six goals in the first period of a 7-4 win. A high-scoring game like that is an anomaly, though, and the Coyotes followed it by losing in a shootout to San Jose after blowing a 2-1 lead Saturday night.