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Arizona Coyotes look to regain their spoiler status against the Tampa Bay Lightning

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The Arizona Coyotes road trip continues as the Coyotes are in Florida for the second to last time of the 2016-17 season.

The 2016-17 season may be all but over for the Arizona Coyotes, but there are still games left to play against teams looking to gain points.  Players still have pride, and jobs are on the line, so you know everyone will be playing to win tonight against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

View from Arizona

For a stretch, it seemed like the Coyotes had taken on the role of late season spoilers for teams on the playoff bubble. Unfortunately a few bad games, including a 3-0 loss to the St Louis Blues and 3-1 loss to the Nashville Predators have proven that role has proven to be a difficult one.

The Coyotes have been playing without Shane Doan for the past two games. Although he hasn’t been generating as much offense as he was last season, the team is definitely missing his leadership. Unfortunately Doaner’s playing career will likely be coming to an end sooner rather than later, so the Desert Dogs will have to find that leadership somewhere else.

View from Tampa Bay

For more on the Tampa Bay Lightning, check out Raw Charge

The Eastern Conference has a three team race for the final Wild Card spot for this year’s playoffs. Currently at the top the Toronto Maple Leafs lead with 81 points, the New York Islanders with 78 points, and the Tampa Bay Lightning bringing up the rear with 78 points. With eleven games remaining and the race so close the three teams won’t be leaving anything on the ice going down the final stretch.

Tampa Bay made a big splash at the trade deadline by sending Ben Bishop to the Los Angeles Kings for Peter Budaj, defenseman Erik Černák, a 2017 NHL Entry Draft seventh round pick, and a conditional second round pick in 2017. The Lightning seemed ready to make a move to solidify their starting goaltender by giving the role to Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Three Questions

1. Can the Coyotes start scoring again? With the Yotes registering only one goal in the past 120 minutes of hockey you have to wonder where the offense has gone?

2. Will Z play again? The Arizona Coyotes recalled defenseman Zbynek Michalek it what may potentially be the last few games of the season. He brings a veteran presence to a very young blue line, and could serve as a leader during the final stretch.

3. Can the Yotes match Tampa Bay’s desperation? For the Lightning every game could be the difference between making the playoffs and spending the month golfing. It’s tough for a team like the Coyotes to match that level of play, but they are going to have to if they want two points.

Players to Watch

Arizona – Oliver Ekman-Larsson. In the past two games OEL has the Yotes only goal. He has been having a terrible season, but that is hopefully a sign that things may be starting to turn around for the young Swede.

Tampa Bay – Nikita Kucherov. The twenty three year old forward has already set career highs in goals, assists, and points this season. With 33 goals and 38 assists expect Kucherov to be generating offense for a number of years to come.

Injury Report

Arizona – Shane Doan is questionable for tonight’s game with a lower body injury. Kevin Connauton, Alexander Burmistrov, and Brad Richardson are all out indefinitely with an upper body, concussion, and leg injury respectively.

Tampa Bay – Vladislav Namestnikov is probable for tonight, Tyler Johnson and Cedric Paquette are questionable tonight with knee and leg injuries respectively. Ryan Callahan and Steven Stamkos are out for the rest of the season and indefinitely respectively.

Puck Drop

Tonight’s game will be at 4:30 pm Arizona time and will be aired on Fox Sports Arizona Plus and on ESPN Phoenix 620AM.