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Lightning (34-18-7, 75 Points) vs. Coyotes (33-19-9, 75 Points)
Last 10: Tampa Bay (5-3-2); Phoenix (8-2-0)
Season Series: The Lightning and Coyotes wrap up the two-game season series tonight in the final meeting between the clubs of the regular season. Tampa Bay took a 1-0 series edge with a win and the first matchup, earning a 3-0 shutout of the Coyotes in the desert on Oct. 30.
The Big Story: Two of the NHL’s biggest surprise teams of the season face off tonight, as the Lightning and Coyotes meet in the second of two meetings. When Steve Yzerman took over as general manager of the Lightning, it was clear an improved situation was on the horizon. Few, however, expected it would happen so quickly. Tampa Bay is second in the Eastern Conference with 75 points, while the Coyotes have taken over the Western Conference as of late, winning eight games in a row, with five of those coming against Western Conference opponents to propel them into the Pacific Division lead with 75 points.
LIGHTNING – Tampa Bay will play the second-to-last game on the record 12-game home stand tonight, which closes itself out Friday against New Jersey. The Lightning’s record in the last five games has not been indicative of the effort night in and night out, which has been repeatedly praised by head coach Guy Boucher. The Bolts come into tonight having lost three straight and five of the last seven, but realize the importance of picking up points at home before it hits the road for the first time in over a month on Feb. 27 at the New York Rangers. Tampa Bay came close to doing just that Saturday night versus Florida, but fell just short after surrendering a one-goal lead with three minutes remaining in regulation. Dan Ellis, in his first start since Feb. 6, stopped 24 shots through 65 minutes, but couldn’t hold off Mike Santorelli in the shootout, who won the game for Florida with the lone shootout goal.
COYOTES – Phoenix plays tonight in the second half of a back-to-back set, and for the third time on a five-game road trip along the East Coast and through the Midwest. The Coyotes have been the league’s hottest team since Feb. 1, winning seven in a row and winning all but two games to open the month. They arrived in Tampa Bay early this morning after taking a flight immediately following last night’s game in Philadelphia. Phoenix edged the Flyers 3-2 in the extra period after Shane Doan put home the game-winner 2:41 into overtime to extend the season-high win streak to eight consecutive games. Perhaps most impressive about the current streak may be how Phoenix has won seven of those eight by a single goal. With three games left on their current five-game road trip, the Coyotes have an opportunity to put some space between themselves and the rest of the Conference before closing March with a season-high six-game home stand.
Who’s Hot: Steven Stamkos has gone five straight without a goal, but that hasn’t stopped Martin St. Louis from consistently doing what he does best. The Lightning wing is riding a six-game assist streak, with seven in that span, which marks a team season-high record. Dominic Moore has a goal and an assist in his last three games and Steve Downie has also scored twice in the last four games. Phoenix’s captain Shane Doan has five points on a current five-game point streak and Taylor Pyatt has six points in his last seven games for the Coyotes.
Notable Quotable: “It will be very difficult against two opponents who don't want to lose. We have to force it down their throat or it ain't going to happen.” – Guy Boucher, on the Lightning’s upcoming schedule, including tonight’s contest against Phoenix and Friday versus New Jersey
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