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Game #65 Preview: Arizona vs. Tampa Bay

Coyotes open home stand in hosting Lightning; Raanta starts, Chychrun ruled out, Kuemper's conditioning

by Alex Kinkopf @AEKinkopf / Game Preview

GAME #65: ARIZONA (30-26-8) vs. TAMPA BAY (40-16-5)

6:00 PM MST - Gila River Arena | Glendale, AZ

TV: Fox Sports Arizona Plus (Matt McConnell, Tyson Nash, Todd Walsh, Jody Jackson)

Radio: Fox Sports 910 AM Phoenix (Bob Heethuis, Paul Bissonnette)

Referees: Francois St. Laurent #8, Brad Meier #34

Linesmen: Trent Knorr #63, Kiel Murchison #79

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ARIZONA VS. TAMPA BAY

Back on home ice, the Coyotes prepare to host the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight at Gila River Arena, marking the second and final meeting between the teams this season.

The Coyotes are coming off of a 1-0 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Thursday and suffered consecutive losses on their two-game road trip.

"It's a different day, we've got to find energy tonight," said head coach Rick Tocchet following the morning skate. "We're playing arguably the best team in the league and you've got to find energy, that's it, we're a day-by-day team and that's the way it's got to go from here on out for us."

In regard to the team's energy levels, they've certainly been busy. The Coyotes enter the night having played more games than any other team in the NHL. The team's 64 games played is followed by the Montreal Canadiens and Detroit Red Wings, who have each played 63.

The Lightning are coming off of a 5-3 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday, snapping their franchise-record 11-game win streak in the process. Tampa Bay currently owns second-place in the Atlantic Division with 85 points.

"It's going to be a tough test for us for sure," said Oliver Ekman-Larsson . "They have a lot of skilled guys up front and a really deep team, so we're going to have to bring our A-game tonight. We've been a little bit up and down this year, we wouldn't mind a little more consistency."

Antti Raanta will start tonight, Tocchet said following the morning skate. Vinnie Hinostroza will draw into the lineup for Christian Fischer .

The team will be without defenseman Jakob Chychrun , who suffered a lower-body injury on Wednesday night in Dallas.

"It goes all over our team right now," Ekman-Larsson said of players needing to step up in lieu of injuries. "I think we need every guy to play their best hockey of the year and find ways to win hockey games. It's important that we get back on track and really focus on putting some wins together at home."

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THREE THINGS

KUEMPER FOR CONDITIONING: Goaltender Darcy Kuemper , who has been out with a lower-body injury since December 19, was assigned to the Tucson Roadrunners on Saturday morning for conditioning purposes. He will start for the Roadrunners tonight against the Stockton Heat at Tucson Arena, and has been tabbed as a possibility for Tuesday's game against the Florida Panthers.

NEW YEAR, HAPPY HOME: Since December 31, the Coyotes have earned points in nine of their 10 games played at Gila River Arena, posting a 7-1-3 record over that stretch. Only the Carolina Hurricanes (18) have earned more points at home than the Coyotes have (17) since the turn of the calendar year. Conor Garland (7G, 5A) and Taylor Hall (3G, 9A) lead the team in points (12) during the last 10 home games played.

OUTSIDE LOOKING IN: Following their back-to-back losses in Dallas and St. Louis, the Coyotes now find themselves on the outside looking in when it comes to the Western Conference's playoff picture. A win tonight, however, could jolt Arizona back to as high as the first wild card position. "That's what we play for and that's what we want to accomplish, so I think it's important, too, that we realize that we're still in a good spot," said Oliver Ekman-Larsson. "I really believe in this group, I feel like we have enough good players to make a difference and take us to the playoffs."

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LAST TIME AROUND

JANUARY 9, 2020 - ARIZONA (0) at TAMPA BAY (4)

The Coyotes suffered their third shutout loss of the season in the teams' previous meeting on January 9 at Tampa Bay's Amalie Arena, falling to the Lightning by a 4-0 final.

Despite directing 25 shots on Andrei Vasilevskiy, Arizona was unable to get a puck past Tampa Bay's netminder.

Adin Hill stopped 30 of the 34 shots he faced in the loss.

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NUMBER TO KNOW

NINE HUNDRED TWENTY-TWO (.922)

Antti Raanta made a season-high 45 saves on Thursday night in St. Louis to improve his overall save percentage to .922, which is tied for the seventh-best mark in the NHL among qualified goaltenders.

The 30-year-old netminder has stopped 109 of the last 112 shots he's faced over his previous three starts.

Through the month of February, Raanta has posted a .949 SV% and a 1.75 GAA over a stretch of eight starts - he has posted a 4-3-1 record over that span.

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QUICK HITS

  • Derek Stepan has 20 points (9G, 11A) in 27 career games against the Lightning.
  • The Coyotes' 2.61 GA/G ranks fourth in the NHL.
  • The Lightning's 3.54 GF/G ranks first in the NHL.
  • Arizona is 23-7-2 this year when scoring the game's first goal.
  • The Lightning are 9-4-0 in their last 13 games played at Gila River Arena.
  • Conor Garland (13G, 9A) and Christian Dvorak (9G, 13A) co-lead the Coyotes in home scoring with 22 points each.
  • Nikita Kucherov leads Tampa Bay in scoring this season with 74 points (29G, 45A).
  • Arizona owns a 19-23-0-0 all-time record against Tampa Bay.

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Lead Photo Credit: Christian Petersen - Getty Images // Footer Photo Credit: Christian Petersen - Getty Images // GIF Highlight Footage: Fox Sports Arizona

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