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Coyotes’ biggest road block to close season might be life away from home

GLENDALE, Ariz. — If the schedule makers have it their way, the Phoenix Coyotes will have to earn the Western Conference’s second Wild Card spot the hard way.

And for that matter, the long way.

Following Saturday night’s 4-2 loss to the Boston Bruins, the Coyotes embark on a three-game road trip with stops in New York, New Jersey and Pittsburgh in between.

The trip — which spans over 3,300 miles in just four days — is by no means the team’s longest of the season, however the idea of another swing through the Eastern Time Zone, the third of 2013-14, seems to have left at least one Coyote, captain Shane Doan, scratching his head.

“I have absolutely no idea who makes the schedule or how it is made,” Doan said. “But it is makes absolutely zero sense. And not even that, but in the middle of the trip you’re playing and then you go play in Pittsburgh and then you come back to New York after we’ve already played the Islanders and Philly.

“I mean we were just there last week. It doesn’t make any sense.”

Although the comment wasn’t meant to serve as an excuse for whatever transpires on Phoenix’s upcoming road trip, Doan has a point.

From March 8-13, the Coyotes were out on the road for four games, featuring pit stops in Washington, then down to Florida for a pair and then back up to Boston.

Geographically speaking, the scheduling logic doesn’t make a lot of sense, but head coach Dave Tippett attributes some of the traveling issues to the Olympic break, which more or less condensed the season into a smaller window.

“We could have long discussions about scheduling,” Tippett said. “Every year, there are tough spots. And every year, it seems like there are games where it’s like, ‘Why would they do this?’ But that’s the way it goes.

“And the reality is, everybody has those issues in their schedule. I think the Olympic break threw a little more of those issues in this year.”

Of their final 11 games, the Coyotes essentially have an even split — playing five at home and six on the road. The team currently sitting two points behind them in ninth place, the Dallas Stars, has an even rougher road with seven of its final 12 games taking place outside the American Airlines Center.

“You’ve got 11 games left,” said Tippett. “You’ve got to do whatever you can to get as many points as you can if you’re going to get in.”

In 35 road contests this season, Phoenix is tied for the second-fewest wins in the Western Conference with 13.