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Two teams, two directions: Tampa Bay Lightning @ Arizona Coyotes preview

The Arizona Coyotes host Eastern Conference contender Tampa Bay Lightning.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The last game the Arizona Coyotes played was on Monday, a dismal road loss to the Colorado Avalanche that included a second period where they did not even record a single shot on goal. The four days off since that performance may have softened the blow a little bit. Now the team has to re-focus and set their sights on their next opponent, the ever-dangerous Tampa Bay Lightning.

These teams are heading in two completely opposite directions. Arizona is looking ahead to the off-season and Tampa Bay looking to add another Stanley Cup to their franchise history. The two Sunbelt teams square off in Glendale on Saturday night.

Matchup at a Glance

Tampa Bay Lightning Arizona Coyotes
Points 78 (2nd Atlantic) 47 (6th Pacific)
Goals For 3.22 (1st) 2.19 (28th)
Goals Against 2.60 (12th) 3.26 (28th)
Power Play 16.9% (24th) 22.2% (5th)
Penalty Kill 83.2% (8th) 78.0% (27th)
5v5 Corsi For 53.7% (4th) 48.9% (23rd)
PDO 100.9 (7th) 97.0 (30th)

View from Tampa Bay

The Lightning are coming off an impressive 4-1 road win Wednesday night against another Cup contender, the Anaheim Ducks. In that one, the Bolts fell behind 1-0 after the first, but poured it on in the second period, burying the Ducks with four goals en route to the victory. Tampa Bay is 5-3-2 in their last 10 match-ups, with all but one of those coming against playoff-contending teams and six of those 10 on the road no less.

Sitting only a point behind the Montreal Canadiens and New York Islanders for the top spot in the Eastern Conference, the Lightning come into Saturday night's tilt eager to pick up two points against a lackluster Coyotes squad as they continue to trek through the Western Conference on this road trip. Arizona is their second to last stop before returning to Tampa Bay.

View from Arizona

Meanwhile, back in the desert, the Coyotes are looking to pick up some momentum with a quick home game win before making a road trip through New York and Boston. Arizona is coming off the aforementioned loss to the Avalanche and are all but certain to look like a completely new team in a few weeks after the trade deadline.

In their last 10 games, they are a meager 3-6-1 and have lost four in a row, all regulation contests. The Coyotes also have yet to crack into double digits in home wins, standing at a 9-15-4 mark, making them the only team in the league to not have at least 10 home wins.

Things don't get any easier against a talented and hungry Lightning team, especially when the trends of the two teams seem to indicate that the Coyotes are most likely going to struggle.

Keys to the game

  • Slow it down - Tampa Bay will want to play fast and quick, so being able to neutralize that aspect of the game will be critical. If the Coyotes can set the tempo and play a slow, controlled game, they can frustrate the Bolts and maybe even have a shot.
  • Contain Steven Stamkos - We all know what Stamkos can do, so at least containing him will be key. He will most likely "get his" but preventing him from putting up huge numbers is big as well.
  • Get the man advantage - Surprisingly enough, the Tampa Bay power play is not as potent as one might think and the Arizona power play unit has been better than expected. As long as the Coyotes can draw penalties and disrupt the flow of Tampa Bay's 5-on-5 play, this could get interesting.

  • Who's Hot?

    Oliver Ekman-Larsson continues to be the man for the Coyotes, picking up another goal on Monday to lead the team with 17. He is also their leading point-getter with 30 and leads in power play tallies with 9.

    For Tampa Bay, Stamkos tallied another goal Wednesday night in Anaheim for his 31st of the year but their leading point-getter, Tyler Johnson, also picked up a goal himself to give him 22 on the year and a total of 56 points.

    Injury Report

    Arizona will continue to play without Mikkel Boedker (spleen) and Martin Hanzal (back). Hanzal recently underwent back surgery and is expected to miss the rest of the season. Zbynek Michalek will also most likely miss this one with an upper-body injury.

    On the Lightning side, Matt Carle continues to be sidelined with a torn abductor muscle and will be out for a few more weeks and Radko Gudas is still recovering from knee surgery.

    Puck Drop

    As per usual for a Saturday night game in Arizona, it is a 6 p.m. start for this one. For those not able to be in attendance, the game can be viewed on Fox Sports Arizona Plus (check your local listings) and/or can be heard on Arizona Sports 620 AM. The Lightning will also carry a broadcast on SunSports.