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Coyotes go for 7 in a row vs. stumbling Panthers

by John McGourty

PHOENIX (43-22-5) at FLORIDA (28-30-10)

Last 10 -- Coyotes 7-3-0; Panthers 4-5-1

Season series -- This is the only meeting of the teams this season. The Coyotes beat the Panthers 4-1 in their only meeting last season on Nov. 9, 2008, getting goals from three players no longer with the team. Phoenix is 10-7-3-1 in 21 meetings with Florida.

Big story -- The remarkable turnaround of the Phoenix Coyotes could produce a record total for victories in a season with a win in this game. The Coyotes tied their franchise mark of 43 wins when they defeated TampaBay 2-1 on Tuesday. They are also gunning for their seventh-straight victory and are only five points behind Pacific Division and Western Conference leader San Jose. The Panthers have fallen to 13th in the East, eight points behind the eighth-place Boston Bruins with 14 games to play.

Team Scope:

Coyotes -- Since making a League-leading seven trades on deadline day, the Coyotes are undefeated in six games and surrendered only seven goals in those games. Not only is it likely that the Coyotes will earn their first playoff spot in eight years, if they can hold on to fourth place, they'll host the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 1999. Newly acquired forward Lee Stempniak has 6 goals and 2 assists and Wojtek Wolski has 2 goals and 2 assists since March 3. Goalie Ilya Bryzgalov is second in the NHL with 37 wins, fourth with a 2.25 goals-against average and ninth with a .922 save percentage.

Panthers -- This is the second game of a four-game homestand. The Washington Capitals won in Sunrise on Tuesday, sweeping the six-game season series from their Southeast Division rivals. The Panthers' playoff chances are rapidly receding. After Phoenix, they play Buffalo and Tampa Bay at home, then play five of their next six on the road. Five of those road rivals are currently in playoff position. Stephen Weiss leads the Panthers with 23 goals, 50 points and 10 power-play goals.

Who's hot -- Florida forwards Greg Campbell and Radek Dvorak have three points in two games. Defenseman Bryan McCabe has a goal and 11 points in 10 games. ... Phoenix's Stempniak has 6 points in his last four games. Bryzgalov is 2-0-0 with a 0.50 GAA and .982 save percentage in his past two games. Center Matt Lombardi has scored in his past two games.

Injury report -- Florida's Nathan Horton is expected to return after missing 17 games with a broken leg. Newly acquired forward Byron Bitz has missed three games with a lower-body injury. ... Phoenix forward Scottie Upshall is sidelined indefinitely with a right knee injury. Center Robert Lang has missed five games with a lower-body injury.

Stat pack -- The Coyotes have the NHL's worst power play at 14.9 percent (40-for-268), though they're better on the road, succeeding 16.1 percent of the time. They are also tied for 11th in allowing five shorthanded goals. Florida, though, ranks 27th by killing only 75.2 percent of shorthanded situations at home.

Puck drop -- While the Panthers rank 27th in the NHL with 66 points, goalie Tomas Vokoun is tied for second with a .928 save percentage and ranks 12th with a 2.42 goals-against average. In 27 games since Dec. 31, Vokoun has given up three or fewer goals in 22 games. Of the other five games, the Washington Capitals won three of them.

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