Florida Panthers vs Phoenix Coyotes Preview: The playoff push continues

The Coyotes have cracked the top 8 in the Western Conference and are looking to solidify their position by defeating the struggling Florida Panthers at home.

For the final time this season and the second time in 10 days the Phoenix Coyotes face off against the Florida Panthers. The Coyotes are desperate to secure a place in the playoffs this season while the Panthers seemed poised to play the role of spoilers after an impressive win against the San Jose Sharks.

Matchup at a Glance


Florida Panthers

Phoenix Coyotes

Points

60 (28th in the NHL) 77 (8th in Western Conference)

Goals For

2.39 (24th)

2.71 (16th)

Goals Against

3.14 (27th)

2.77 (17th)

Power Play

10.6 (30th)

20.3 (8th)

Penalty Kill

75.3 (30th)

79.1 (27th)

Florida Panthers

Florida is out of the playoffs this season and their past few games have reflected why. They are 4-5-1 in their past 10 games and have mostly won against other teams that haven't been playing well this year like the Buffalo Sabres, the New York Islanders and the New Jersey Devils. They did manage to win to pull off an impressive win against the Sharks this past Tuesday which at one point saw them getting outshot 54-24 including 29-2 in the 3rd period.

Florida managed to stay in that game against the Sharks because of one reason, the recently acquired Roberto Luongo. Luongo has a 3-2-1 record since returning to the Panthers and has allowed 15 goals on 209 shots for a .928 save percentage, which is pretty good considering how bad the team in front of him is.

Phoenix Coyotes

Phoenix has played much better lately, and have won enough to leapfrog over the Dallas Stars for the 2nd wildcard spot in the Western Conference. The Coyotes won four of their past five games, including victories against impressive teams like the Los Angeles Kings and the Tampa Bay Lightning along with wins against the lesser teams like the Panthers and the Calgary Flames.

Unfortunately one issue has been present in many of their games this season, they allow their opponents to comeback. They had a 2 goal lead in the Calgary and Los Angeles games and had a one-goal lead against Tampa Bay until the final minute of the game. While this wasn't an issue the last time the Coyotes met the Panthers, it is still a bad habit the Coyotes need to break.

Keys to the Game

Special Teams. The Coyotes have the advantage on both the power play and penalty kill against the Panthers and they need to take advantage when they are given the opportunities.

Shoot everything. Luongo has proven that he has the ability to shut down another team's offense with a stellar performance against the Sharks. If Luongo is able to shut the door, the Yotes are going to need to do everything they can to score, which includes shooting on every good opportunity.

Win. Although the Desert Dogs are alone in 8th place the Dallas Stars are only two points behind with a game in hand with many of the tie breakers. The Yotes need to walk away with two points, preferably in regulation or overtime.

Likely Starting Goaltender


Mike Smith

#41 / Goalie / Phoenix Coyotes

6-4

215

Mar 22, 1982

GP MIN W L OTL GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2013 - Mike Smith 59 3440 26 20 10 153 2.67 1794 1641 .915 3

Coach Tippett has made it known that Mike Smith is his goalie moving forward and he is likely to play most of the games down the stretch. Luckily, Smith has been playing extremely well these past few games and has saved some games for the Coyotes.

Player to Watch


Keith Yandle

#3 / Defenseman / Phoenix Coyotes

6-1

190

Sep 09, 1986



G A P +/- PIM
2013 - Keith Yandle 8 41 49 -16 45

Keith Yandle has nine points in the past seven games with five of those points coming on the power play. He also hasn't gone two games in a row without getting a point since February 4th and has only gone pointless in three of the past 13 games.

Injuries

David Schlemko is likely still out with a lower-body injury. Martin Erat missed the past few games but is likely to play tonight.

Alex Petrovic is out with an upper-body injury, Jonathan Huberdeau is out with an upper-body injury and isn't expected to play until the Panthers finish their road trip, Jesse Winchester suffered a lower-body injury against the Boston and Bruins and hasn't played since then, Tomas Kopecky is out with a lower-body injury, Aleksander Barkov is out with a knee injury, Erik Gudbranson is out with a knee injury, and Sean Bergenheim is out with a lower body injury but may return against the Coyotes.

Puck Drop

The game starts at 7 p.m. at Jobing.com Arena and the game will be a Student Rush event allowing you to get $25 tickets if you have a High School or College ID. If you can't make it out to the arena, the game will be broadcast on FOX Sports Arizona and on the radio on KMVP 860 AM.

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