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Coyotes aim for ninth straight win at Tampa Bay

by Tal Pinchevsky
COYOTES (32-19-9) at LIGHTNING (34-18-7)


Last 10: Phoenix 8-2-0; Tampa Bay 5-3-2.

Season Series: This is the second and final game between two warm-weather teams looking to retain their current places atop their respective divisions. They last played each other almost four months ago in Glendale, when Dan Ellis’ 23 saves paced a 3-0 Lightning victory.

Big Story: The Coyotes and Lightning may have been overlooked as possible Stanley-Cup contenders coming into the season. They have exceeded expectations so far, but one bad week could see either team take a dip in the standings.

The Lightning are second in the East thanks to their place atop the Southeast Division. But Tampa Bay leads their division by only a single point over Washington. Compared to the Coyotes, that lead seems insurmountable. In the cluttered Western Conference, the Coyotes are in third place but their 75 points puts them only seven ahead of eleventh place.

Team Scope:

Coyotes: There may not be a hotter team in hockey right now than the Coyotes, who established a season high on Tuesday by winning their eighth straight game. Coming into the unfriendly confines of the Wells Fargo Center, Phoenix lost a 2-1 lead late in regulation but pulled off the big win over the Flyers on Shane Doan’s snap shot. Perhaps most impressive about the current streak may be how Phoenix has won seven of those eight games 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 homestand.

Lightning: The Lightning opened February by ending a season-high six-game win streak. They have since gone 2-3-2, allowing some of the teams behind them to creep further up the Conference standings. Against the visiting Panthers on Saturday, Tampa Bay squandered a 2-1 lead with three minutes left in regulation before losing 3-2 in a shootout that saw the conspicuous absence of star scorers Steven Stamkos, Vincent Lecavalier, and Martin St. Louis.

While Stamkos almost won the game in overtime, hitting a post on a power play, he went goalless for the fifth straight game but continues to lead the League with 40 tallies. During Stamkos’ five-game drought, the Lightning have gone 1-2-2, their only win coming in overtime against Carolina.

"It's a tough one to take," Lightning coach Guy Boucher said after the Florida loss. "We outshot them, out-chance them. They scored on the same shots we made, but ours didn't go in."

Who's Hot: Doan has 5 points in his current five-game point streak while his Coyotes teammate Taylor Pyatt has 6 points in his last seven games. … St. Louis has 7 points (all assists) in his current six-game point streak. Marc-Andre Bergeron has 5 points in the six games he has played since joining the Lightning on Feb. 6.

Injury Report: Coyotes defensemen Kurt Sauer (concussion) and Ed Jovanovski (orbital bone) are on IR while Adrian Aucoin and Ray Whitney are questionable with various injuries. … For the Lightning, Mike Lundin and Ryan Malone are both on IR with abdominal injuries.

Stat Pack: Stamkos and St. Louis are among the League’s most dangerous offensive duos, but they haven’t done much together against the Coyotes. In the four games they have played together against Phoenix, they have totaled just a goal and an assist. With 3 points in those four games, Phoenix captain Doan has outscored the two All-Stars by himself.

Puck Drop: With his 1,099th game, Doan will pass former Coyotes captain Teppo Numminen on Wednesday to become the Winnipeg/Phoenix franchise’s all-time leader in games played. Doan is one of four active NHL player (along with Teemu Selanne, Nikolai Khabibulin, and Kris Draper) who has played for the Winnipeg Jets and ranks in the top five in franchise history in goals, assists, points, penalty minutes, and power-play goals.
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