Questions. The NHL season is only eight games old, but the Coyotes are faced with a multitude of questions. Especially after they were completely undressed Tuesday night by the Tampa Bay Lightning. Where is the defense? What's happening to Oliver Ekman-Larsson? Was that rock bottom? Why wasn't Justin Hodgman in the lineup? Will Mike Smith ever make another save? Not all of these questions have easy answers, but hopefully a rematch with the Florida Panthers will keep new questions from cropping up.
Matchup at a Glance
|Arizona Coyotes||Florida Panthers
|Points||7 (7th Pacific)||7 (7th Atlantic)|
|Goals Per Game||2.62 (17th)||1.43 (29th)|
|Goals Against Per Game||3.88 (t-30th)||2.14 (10th)|
|Power Play Percentage||26.7% (2nd)||11.1% (23rd)|
|Penalty Kill Percentage||81.5%(16th)||73.0 (28th)|
|5 on 5 Fenwick For Percentage||50.8% (15th)||52.0% (12th)|
|PDO||92.4 (29th)||100.1 (15th)|
View from Arizona
The Coyotes four game road trip through the former Southeast division didn't start very well. One thing that may have gotten lost in the shuffle of the handwringing over the 7-3 blowout loss is that the Lightning are good. They are young, talented and possibly the most complete team in the Eastern Conference. Yes, losing a game as badly as Arizona did is never good, but Tampa Bay is a very solid squad that should beat a team like the Coyotes at this point in the season. The desert dogs are inconsistent and out of sorts right now. Maybe playing the Panthers again will put them in the right frame of mind.
There were no positives to take from the Tampa game, but Shane Doan did net his first goal of the season, Antoine Vermette totaled his 400th career point on Doan's goal and Sam Gagner earned another assist. Plus Martin Hanzal returned to the lineup, albeit at the expense of Justin Hodgman. It will be interesting to see if No. 12 finds himself in the lineup after a lackluster effort from the entire team.
View from Florida
The Panthers haven't played a game since Saturday, when they took these same Coyotes to overtime in Glendale. Florida played well in the game, but undisciplined play robbed them of victory. Two Arizona power play goals on eight chances proved to be the difference in a 2-1 defeat. Getting a point on the road is nice, but Florida has to feel like they should have grabbed two, so expect them to play another tight checking, well structured game.
Aaron Ekblad will be counted on again to have another strong game. The No. 1 selection of the 2014 draft had a stellar game in Gila River Arena, saving a goal by clearing a loose puck from the crease and being positionally sound all night long. The rookie is averaging over 21 minutes a game on the young season and looking like a stud for years to come for a franchise in desperate need of one.
Keys to the game
- Put Tuesday in the past - The Coyotes need to have a short memory and move on from the tire fire that was the Lightning game. No good can come from dwelling on that kind of drubbing and they need to have a fresh start tonight.
- Forget about Saturday - Arizona needs to also move away from putting to much stock in their victory from less than a week ago. Just because you beat these Panthers with help from power play doesn't mean that will happen again. They didn't earn a single second of advantage time against Tampa after all.
- De-fense (clap clap), De-fense - Pretty self explanatory. They need to be much better in their own end, pay attention to their assignments and stop the sloppy turnovers. Put in a solid night's work.
Martin Erat continued his solid play with his third goal of the season on Tuesday. Erat scored three goals for the entirety of the 2013 season, so equalling that total in only eight games is a positive takeaway for the Czech forward.
Roberto Luongo played well on Saturday, stopping 39 of 41 shots. He has a .917 Sv% on the year with a 2.57 GAA.
The Coyotes will be without the services of David Moss for the forseeable future as he is out indefinitely with an upper-body injury and didn't join the team on the road trip. Lauri Korpikoski left the game in the second period on Tuesday after blocking a shot with his skate. He is probable for tonight and expected to suit up.
Florida will once again be without Dave Bolland as he will miss his fourth straight game with a lower-body injury.
Just like a dinner for the elderly citizens that enjoy living in the Miami area, tonight's game will get underway earlier than normal. The puck will drop at 4:30 p.m. Arizona time and will be shown on Fox Sports Arizona and can be heard on ESPN Phoenix 620 AM.