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Rare meeting in desert pits Coyotes vs. Panthers

by Sergei J. Feldman /

PANTHERS (10-14-0) at COYOTES (12-7-5)

TV -- FS-F (HD), FS-A (HD)

Last 10 --
Florida 3-7-0; Phoenix 8-2-0

Season Series -- This will be the first and only meeting of the 2010-11 season between the two warm-weather teams. In last season's only get-together, the Coyotes clipped the Panthers, 4-3, in a shootout in mid-March. Radim Vrbata tallied twice for the Coyotes, while three different scorers led the way for the Panthers. Ilya Bryzgalov earned the win against Panthers goalie Tomas Vokoun.

Big Story -- The Panthers and Coyotes have been riding two very different waves of late. While the Coyotes have won eight of their past 10 games and sit comfortably in sixth place in the Western Conference standings, the Panthers have seen three victories in their past 10 efforts.

Team Scope:

Panthers -- Florida's recent struggles can be linked to the team's inability to produce offensively this season, particularly on the power play. Entering this game, it ranks last in the NHL with just an 8.4-percent conversion rate with the man-advantage. What's held the team afloat has been the play of goalie Tomas Vokoun and concentration on team defense. Vokoun has a .918 save percentage and 2.56 goals-against average, while the team ranks in the upper-half in goals allowed per game. Against Phoenix, the Panthers can close out a four-game road trip on a positive note.

Coyotes --
One of the hottest teams in the League of late, the Coyotes have been out to prove that last season's success was no fluke. Their stretch of seven wins in 10 games and 12-7-5 overall record in a competitive Pacific Division has done that and more. Despite both power play and penalty-killing success rates near the middle of the pack, and without one dominant producer offensively, the Coyotes have relied on a balanced attack to get the job done night in, night out. Entering the game, the Coyotes have 10 players with at least 10 points.

Who's hot -- The leading goal scorer for the Coyotes, Scottie Upshall looks to increase on his 8 goals against the Panthers and takes the momentum of 5 points in his past three games into the game.

Injury Report -- Cory Stillman missed Thursday's game against the Los Angeles Kings with back spasms for the Panthers and is questionable against the Coyotes. Meanwhile, Phoenix skates into the game healthy.

Stat Pack --
Tomas Vokoun, despite posting respectable overall numbers this season, has allowed at least three goals in each of his past five games.

Puck Drop -- The matchup against the Coyotes is another measuring stick game for the Panthers, who skated away with a 3-2 loss to the Kings on Thursday night. Beating the elite teams in the League is a priority in Florida.

"We've shown that we can compete with anyone in this League," forward David Booth said after the Kings game. "But competing isn't good enough right now. We've got to start winning some games."

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