NHL: Coyotes @ Panthers Preview
The road trip continues for the Phoenix Coyotes. After grabbing a 4-3 shootout win over Tampa Bay Lightning last night, the desert dogs takes on the Florida Panthers tonight.
Playing back-to-back games is never an easy thing, but at least the Coyotes are playing two teams that reside in the same state. The game against the Lightning almost slipped out of the hands of the Coyotes with Tampa Bay scoring with less than 40 seconds to go in the third to tie the game. Mike Smith came up big in the OT and the shootout against his former team. Smith ended the night with 28 saves. He stopped all three shootout attempts by the Lightning and Vrbata got the shootout winner for Phoenix.
Keith Yandle leads the Coyotes in points with 44 points (7G 37A) and Antoine Vermette is the leading goalscorer with 22 goals in 65 games. The Coyotes are currently in 9th place in the Western Conference with 71 points in 65 games, one point behind the Dallas Stars (72p in 64 games) in the last playoff spot. Phoenix are 4-5-1 in the last 10 games.
The Florida Panthers is having another rough season, and with 55 points in 64 games, the team is second to last in the Eastern Conference. The sun cats did make a big move bringing back goaltender Roberto Luongo before the trade deadline. The Panthers are 3-7-0 in the last 10 games and losers of two straight. Scottie Upshall leads the team in points with 31 (11G 20A) and Brad Boyes in the leading goalscorer with a tally of 17.
Keys to the game for Coyotes:
Keep momentum going – take the two points against the Lightning and run. But take the nice feeling of winning despite letting in that late goal and carry it into the game against the Panthers. Grinding out wins is the way for this team to have success.
Play smart – Since the Coyotes played last night and it went all the way to a shootout, they have to be smart tonight and conserve energy so there isn’t another third period collapse. Short shifts and staying out of the penalty box is imperative to make sure that there’s something left in the tank at the end of the game.
Block shots – Coyotes did a good job blocking shots against Tampa Bay totaling 20 blocked shots. Michael Stone lead the team with 5 of those 20. Keep that up against Florida and it’s a big help for Mike Smith who will be back in net tonight.