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Phoenix Coyotes at Tampa Bay Lightning preview: starting anew

The Coyotes hope to start a new winning streak in Tampa Bay tonight.

Christian Petersen

The Phoenix Coyotes head to the land captained by Steven Stamkos in hopes of starting a new winning streak of one after a third period collapse in the nation's capital ended their previous streak at two games.

Phoenix is racing not only the teams around them, but the calendar as only 18 games remain until the regular season ends. The Desert Dogs find themselves on the outside of the playoff picture looking in, three points behind Dallas and seven points behind Minnesota for one of the two wild card spots.

Matchup at a Glance

Phoenix Coyotes Tampa Bay Lightning
Points 69 (4th Pacific) 74 (4th Atlantic)
Goals Per Game 2.71 (15th) 2.77 (14th)
Goals Against Per Game 2.81 (18th) 2.55 (13th)
Power Play Percentage 21.1% (T-3rd) 16.8% (19th)
Penalty Kill Percentage 79.2% (27th) 80.3% (T-23rd)

Phoenix Coyotes

Phoenix comes into Tampa Bay after sandwiching a pair of victories with a pair of third-period collapses in the last four games. In fact, the Coyotes are only 4-5-1 in the last 10 games. They are treading water in large part because of their inconsistency.

The Jekyll and Hyde routine needs to stop if the Coyotes have any hope of making the playoffs. Good teams put their opponents away in the third period, mediocre ones do not. The Coyotes have lost seven games this season when leading after two periods, including four in regulation -- unacceptable for a playoff contender.

Two solid paragraphs should be fine, no need to worry about the third, right?

Tampa Bay Lightning

After a hot start to the season, the Lightning are sputtering as of late, losers in seven of their last nine games (2-6-1) including both since the return of Stamkos.

Like the Coyotes, Tampa Bay is fighting for a playoff spot. A three-point swing in either direction is the difference between second place in the Atlantic Division and out of the playoffs.

Tampa Bay's season leader in goals, assists and points currently plays for the Rangers, so Stamkos and newly acquired forward Ryan Callahan will have to pick up the slack.

Starting goaltender Ben Bishop is having a breakout season in blue with a 2.08 GAA and a save percentage of .930. In his only career start against the Coyotes, Bishop allowed three goals on 14 shots in 22 minutes.

Keys to the Game

  • Draw Penalties - Phoenix is tied for the third best power play in the league, clicking at 21.1 percent. Tampa Bay's penalty kill is very mediocre and prime for exploitation.
  • Stop Stamkos - Easier said than done, but with Martin St. Louis out of the picture, Stamkos is the only elite offensive player on Tampa Bay's roster.
  • Finish Games - Every period matters including the third. Phoenix has little margin for error anyway, they can't afford to give games away like they did to St. Louis and Washington

Player to Watch

Radim Vrbata

#17 / Right Wing / Phoenix Coyotes



Jun 13, 1981

G A P +/- PIM
2013 - Radim Vrbata 18 25 43 -6 18

Vrbata is on fire right now, scoring three goals in the last two games. The Czech wing is heating up at the right time and could help carry the Yotes to a victory against the Lightning.

Projected Starting Goaltender

Mike Smith

#41 / Goalie / Phoenix Coyotes



Mar 22, 1982

2013 - Mike Smith 54 3136 22 19 10 142 2.72 1641 1499 .914 3

Smith returns to Tampa Bay for the first time as a Coyote hoping to seek revenge on the team that demoted him to the minors in 2011. Smith has played very well since February 1, posting top-five numbers in goals against average and save percentage.

Injury Report

The Coyotes will be without center Martin Hanzal (lower-body) for the fourth game in a row. They will also be without defenseman David Schlemko (ankle) who was sent back to Phoenix to rest.

Tampa Bay will be without defenseman Radko Gudas who is nursing a lower-body injury.

Puck Drop

Puck drop is scheduled for an early 4:30 p.m. start and can be seen on FOX Sports Arizona and heard on KMVP 860 AM.