-- Phoenix Coyotes
coach Dave Tippett
is so disappointed with his top forwards that he's resorted to juggling lines, slashing ice time and even benching players just nine games into the season.
In Tampa Bay, coach Guy Boucher
has no such problems, with star skaters Steven Stamkos
, Marty St. Louis and Vinny Lecavalier providing all the Lightning necessary for an electrifying start. The two teams meet up Saturday in Glendale and the forwards will definitely be a focus.
The Coyotes (3-3-3) have been outshot in eight of nine games and are coming of a 1-1-1 road trip where half of the eight goals they scored came from the blue line and two more came from infrequent scorer Lauri Korpikoski
. Shane Doan
and Wojtek Wolski
are still looking for their first goals of the year and Wolski was a healthy scratch in Thursday's 4-2 win at Detroit.
After nine games, defenseman Ed Jovanovski
and grinder Eric Belanger
lead Phoenix with only 6 points -- and both players had just a single point on the last road trip. If not for the stellar play of goalie Ilya Bryzgalov
, who is facing 37 shots a night but standing tall, the Coyotes would be in even deeper trouble than just looking to post back-to-back wins for the first time.
"We're trying to gear a lineup with people hungry to play," said Tippett, who benched Wolski and skated his team hard after Tuesday's loss in Ottawa and watched his team respond with three first-period goals against the Red Wings. "We put (Petr Prucha
) in for Wolski and he played a heck of a game for us. We have a number of forwards who aren't giving us the production we need, so we'll keep pushing and prodding and try to find the right mix.
"At the end of the day, we have to play to our identity. We have to play with passion. And it was a lot closer (against Detroit) that it was (against Ottawa)."
Meanwhile, Tampa (6-2-1) has the NHL's best offense at 3.56 goals per game and the League's leading scorer in Stamkos, who has 12 of his 18 points during a five-game scoring streak (4-8-12) including 3 assists in Wednesday's come-from-win over Pittsburgh. St. Louis also has a five-game point streak going and had 2 goals and an assist against the Penguins.
The Coyotes hope to get top defensive center Martin Hanzal
back Saturday after he missed the last five games with an upper-body injury. He practiced Friday for the first time. Defenseman Derek Morris
, who left the game in Detroit after re-aggravating a groin injury, took Friday off and will be a game-time decision.
The Lightning welcomed defenseman Mattias Ohlund
(right knee) to the lineup for the first time Wednesday and could get left wing Simon Gagne
(neck) back soon, although he didn't practice Friday.