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Tampa starts road trip with visit to Phoenix

by Brian Hunter /

LIGHTNING (7-4-6) at COYOTES (11-8-0)

Last 10 -- Tampa Bay 5-1-4; Phoenix 5-5-0

Season series -- First of two meetings this season, with the Coyotes making their visit to Florida in mid-March. Kyle Turris scored 8:09 into the third period to give Phoenix a 3-2 win in last season's only meeting at Arena. Ilya Bryzgalov stopped 22 shots to best Mike Smith (24 saves).

Big story -- Phoenix concludes a three-game homestand while Tampa Bay gets started on a four-game road trip. The Lightning have surged into the Eastern Conference playoff picture by picking up at least one point in nine of their last 10 games.

Team scope:

Lightning -- Ryan Malone scored to force overtime for the second straight home game, but unlike two nights earlier when it edged Minnesota in a shootout, Tampa Bay wasn't able to grab the second point Saturday against Los Angeles. Anze Kopitar scored the only goal in the penalty-shot tiebreaker this time around, as the Kings handed the Bolts a 2-1 loss. It was all the more infuriating given the Lightning thought they had won in OT on an Andrej Meszaros goal, but it was disallowed on a controversial goalie interference call.

"Our guy got pushed into the goalie. I don't know what transpired between when the ref pointed that it was in and the guy in the penalty box," coach Rick Tocchet said. "There's nothing you can do. This happens all the time where a goal is called back. We had a couple of chances, but it's tough when you think you win but it just doesn't happen that way."

Coyotes -- A rough start to November in which Phoenix dropped four of its first five was forgotten at least temporarily after a key 3-2 home win Saturday over Pacific Division rival Dallas. David Schlemko put the Coyotes ahead late in the second period with his first NHL goal and Radim Vrbata's insurance tally early in the third held up as the game-winner. It gave coach Dave Tippett a win in his first game against the team he led to five playoff berths in the past six seasons.

"I want to beat them," Tippett said. "I've moved on hockey-wise, and they've moved on. I liken it a little bit to when brothers play against each other. When the puck drops, you play (and) whatever side you're on, (you're) trying to win."

Who's hot -- Malone has goals in his last three games for the Lightning and five points during that span. He has four goals in his last five games. Antero Niittymaki has grabbed the bulk of the starts in net, going 5-1-3 this season with a 1.93 goals-against average and .939 save percentage.

Robert Lang has scored in two straight for the Coyotes and added an assist against the Stars.

Injury report -- Tampa defenseman Matt Smaby (upper-body injury) has yet to play this season, while fellow blueliner Paul Ranger remains away for personal reasons.

Phoenix defensemen Ed Jovanovski and Zbynek Michalek and forward Petr Prucha are all dealing with lower-body injuries. Defenseman Kurt Sauer (head) hasn't played since the season opener.

Stat pack --
Coyotes center Matthew Lombardi won 10 of 14 faceoffs (71.4 percent) against the Stars. He's won at least half of his faceoffs in seven straight games and averaged better than 60 percent in four of the seven.

Puck drop -- The Lightning started 0-3-1 away from the St. Pete Times Forum, but showed signs of developing what it takes to be successful on the road in going 2-1-1 on the last four-game trip.

"Probably everybody uses that (term) … road mentality," Tocchet told the Tampa Tribune. "We got a little bit tighter defensively in Toronto and Ottawa and Montreal, gotten to where you're not being as fancy.

"Obviously, coming home, we got a little off track, but it's nice to get a couple of road wins. So our guys know we can go on the road and win."

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