Last 10: Tampa Bay (5-1-4); Phoenix (5-5-0)
Season Series: The Lightning roll into Jobing.com Arena tonight to face Phoenix for the first time this season. Last year, Tampa Bay dropped its lone match-up with the Coyotes by a score of 3-2 despite goals from D Andrej Meszaros and C Jeff Halpern. It won’t be until mid-March, when the desert dwellers visit Tampa Bay, that the two teams will meet again for their second and final showdown of the 2009-10 campaign.
Big Story: Heading into tonight’s game, both Tampa Bay (t-9th-East) and Phoenix (t-8th-West) are fighting to hold onto prime top-eight real estate in their respective conferences and sit in third place within their divisions. The Bolts, having picked up at least one point in nine of their last ten games, will seek to continue the road success that saw them finish 2-1-1 on a recent swing through Philadelphia, Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal. While tonight’s contest will serve to kick-off Tampa Bay’s latest cross-country adventure it will also bring Phoenix’s three-game homestand to a close.
LIGHTNING – The Lighting will no doubt try to put the sting of Saturday’s controversial disallowed overtime goal and subsequent 2-1 shootout loss to Los Angeles behind them tonight, instead using the defeat as motivation to harness the same kind of determined play that saw them edge Minnesota in a 4-3 come-from-behind victory just last Thursday. In spite of the sucker punch the Bolts were made to endure over the weekend however, Ryan Malone’s continued success in and around the net (his late period goals forcing overtime in the Lightning’s last two games) has allowed Tampa Bay to maintain a pristine 5-0-4 home regulation record and, with 25 tallies between them, Malone (13) and Steven Stamkos (12) now sit tops in the league in combined teammate goals.
COYOTES – November has not been kind to Phoenix with the Coyotes dropping four of their first five Turkey month tilts. The ‘Yotes enter tonight’s game on the heels of a 3-2 victory over Pacific Division rival Dallas in which David Schlemko scored his first NHL goal and ex-Lightning Radim Vrbata netted the game-winner.
- Steven Stamkos has a team-high 20 points and his 13 goals (10 of which have come in his previous 11 games) is good enough to tie him for second in the NHL. Similarly, Stamkos’ six power play markers have him in a three-way tie for tops in the NHL.
- Ryan Malone has goals in four of his last five games and leads the league with four game-winning tallies.
-Antero Niittymaki has won three of his last five starts (3-0-2), is currently in a league-leading save percentage deadlock with Ryan Miller (.939) and is second only to the Buffalo netminder with his impressive goals against average of 1.93.
-Robert Lang picked up an assist in Saturday’s meeting with Dallas to add to the two goals he’s scored in the Coyotes’ last two games.
- Ilya Bryzgalov sits just behind Niittymaki in third place among all NHL backstoppers with a goals against average of 2.04 and is among a trio of goalies boasting a league-best count of three shutouts already this season.
Injury Report: LIGHTNING – D Matt Walker (body maintenance); COYOTES – D Ed Jovanovski, D Zbynek Michalek, and RW Petr Prucha (lower-body). D Kurt Sauer (head) hasn’t seen live action since Phoenix’s season opener on October 3.
“Probably everybody uses that [term] road mentality. We got a little bit tighter defensively in Toronto and Ottawa and Montreal, gotten to where you’re not being as fancy. Obviously, coming home, we got a little off track, but it’s nice to get a couple of road wins. So our guys know we can go on the road and win.” – Lightning Head Coach Rick Tocchet
TampaBayLightning.com’s Peter Pupello contributed to this preview.
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