Say what you will about their third period collapses, but the Phoenix Coyotes are probably thrilled to take two points out of last night's shootout victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning. Tonight's game against the Florida Panthers will challenge them in different ways.
Matchup at a Glance
|Phoenix Coyotes||Florida Panthers|
|Points||71 (4th Pacific)||55 (6th Atlantic)|
|Goals Per Game||2.71 (16th)||2.33 (27th)|
|Goals Against Per Game||2.82 (18th)||3.14 (27th)|
|Power Play Percentage||20.8% (T-7th)||9.6% (30th)|
|Penalty Kill Percentage||79.6% (27th)||75.5% (30th)|
Not only did the Coyotes get two points last night, they managed to do it with several of their usual role players not dressing. Derek Morris and Rob Klinkhammer got the night off, and their positions were filled admirably by Brandon Gormley and Andy Miele. Not only does this give the Coyotes a chance to see what their youngsters can do, but it also leaves some of the veterans fresher for the second half of a road back-to-back.
Phoenix may still be without the services of Martin Hanzal, but the other Martin on their team got a very important goal last night. Trade acquisition Martin Erat recorded only his second goal of the year on a botched pass by Tampa's Victor Hedman. While Erat is adjusting nicely to the Coyotes lineup, Phoenix fans undoubtedly want to see what all three Czechs: Erat, Hanzal, and Radim Vrbata, can do together.
Keys to the Game
- Exploit the Special Teams Disparity - Florida's power play is historically bad, and their penalty kill is actually worse than Phoenix's. The Coyotes need to have a positive goal differential on special teams tonight.
- Stay Fresh - The Coyotes did a pretty good job balancing ice time last night among their forwards; they're going to need a similar strategy tonight to avoid tiring.
- Avoid the "Trap Game" - Thursday night's tilt against the Boston Bruins understandably looms large on the schedule. But the Coyotes need to focus on the here and now. Florida is a team they should beat, and if they can play a full 60 minutes (a big "if" at this point I know), that will be a tremendous confidence booster going into Boston.
Player to Watch
As usual. Antoine Vermette did a little of everything last night. He also played the most minutes of any forward, so it will be interesting to see how much energy he has.
Projected Starting Goaltender
As of this writing Dave Tippett has not decided who will go in net for tonight's game. While the second half of road back-to-backs tends to be Thomas Greiss territory, Tippett has gone with Smith twice in row on occasion.
Update: I'm wrong again:
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Smith back in the net tonight for <a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=%23Coyotes&src=hash">#Coyotes</a>.</p>— Sarah McLellan (@azc_mclellan) <a href="https://twitter.com/azc_mclellan/statuses/443423402918174720">March 11, 2014</a></blockquote>
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For the Coyotes, David Schlemko (leg) will not play, and Martin Hanzal (lower body) is questionable.
For the Panthers, second overall pick in 2013 Aleksander Barkov (knee) is likely done for the year, and neither Erik Gudbranson (knee) or Tomas Kopecky (concussion) are expected to play tonight.
Thanks to Daylight Savings Time, another early game for Arizonans. Tonight's game can be seen at 4:30 on Fox Sports Arizona or heard on KMVP 860 AM.