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Arizona Coyotes take their show East to Tampa

The Arizona Coyotes will travel to the East Coast for the first time this season to take on the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Christian Petersen

Fresh off of a 2-1 OT victory over the Florida Panthers, the Arizona Coyotes decided they want to go back for more. Today marks the beginning of a four-game road trip through the remnants of the Southeast Division, beginning with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Matchup at a Glance

Arizona Coyotes Tampa Bay Lightning
Points 7 (7th Pacific) 11 (2nd Atlantic)
Goals Per Game 2.57 (18th) 3.00 (T-10th)
Goals Against Per Game 3.43 (26th) 2.44 (13th)
Power Play Percentage 26.7% (3rd) 23.5% (9th)
Penalty Kill Percentage 83.3% (13th) 86.2% (6th)
5 on 5 Fenwick For Percentage 51.77% (15th) 54.37% (5th)
PDO 95.66 (29th) 101.69 (10th)

View from Arizona

It's funny how a win can make a lot of problems go away. Though the Panthers are not exactly seen as tough competition, the Coyotes did quite a few things right to get a win. Mike Smith turned aside 23 of 24 shots, and the one he conceded was almost certainly not his fault. The power play converted twice, including Oliver Ekman-Larsson's overtime winner that would make any power play unit jealous. And with 77 shot attempts on the game, the Coyotes dominated possession in a way they hadn't since the Los Angeles game.

Still, there's always something to work on. Justin Hodgman's first career NHL goal came as a welcome respite for a team that had been blanked the game before. The offense is still trying to find its way, though their current 2.57 goals per game average is almost exactly their average from last year (2.56). Of course, consistently winning one-goal games is a near impossibility, so Arizona will need to match relatively solid defense with more potent offense on this swing.

View from Tampa Bay

With about a 10th of the season already in the books, it is not terribly hard to see why Tampa Bay became the sexy sleeper pick to emerge out of the Eastern Conference. The offense is led by who else but Steven Stamkos with six goals, who will seemingly be paired for the foreseeable future with Jonathan Drouin in a line combination that should probably be illegal.

The biggest questions for Tampa have been on the back end, and thus far those questions have been answered. Free agent acquisition Anton Stralman is third on the team in points and is a highly valuable addition to the team's defensive corps, and goaltender Ben Bishop is off to a strong encore performance after a Vezina-nomination worthy campaign in 2013-14. This Lightning team does not have a whole lot of weaknesses at the moment.

Keys to the Game

  • Score First - This key has been something of a broken record for the Coyotes since Dave Tippett took over in 2009. But for a team like Tampa Bay that can seemingly score at will, scoring early will be critical.
  • Keep up the PK Mojo - Arizona's penalty kill has climbed back into the top half of the NHL. The team needs to continue to take as few penalties as possible while killing off the ones they do take.
  • Avoid Bad Shifts - Asking to control the pace of play against the forwards Tampa has is going to be tough for any team. What Arizona can do is minimize the stretches of time they don't have the puck by staying tough on zone entries, muddling things up in the corner, and keeping the puck out of the slot.

Who's Hot

Sam Gagner finally recorded a point by assisting on OEL's OT goal. He's as close to "The Guy" as the Coyotes have, so he needs to find the scoresheet more often.

Stamkos is good. Scary good. He's already scored six times this year, and will likely score a lot more before the season is over.

Injury Report

Arizona may have Martin Hanzal (lower body) for this game. David Moss (upper body) is considered week-to-week and did not travel East.

Tampa Bay is nicked up as well. Forwards Brett Connolly, J.T. Brown, Ryan Callahan, and Alex Killorn are all listed as questionable with a variety of lower/upper body injuries. Defenseman Victor Hedman (finger) is not expected back until November, and defenseman Mattias Ohlund (knee) is not expected back at all this season.

Puck Drop

Because the East Coast doesn't appreciate how awful Daylight Savings Time is, tonight's game begins at 4:30 p.m. Arizona time. You can catch the game on Fox Sports Arizona or 620 AM KTAR.