Will Lightning strike in the desert?: Tampa Bay Lightning at Phoenix Coyotes preview

Jen Fuller

Where: Jobing.com Arena, Phoenix
When:  8:00 PM ET | Tickets: Check availability
Media: CW44 | 970 AM WFLA
Opponent CoverageFive For Howling

Other Game Coverage:

When lightning strikes in a desert, if the conditions are just right, a glass tube called a fulgurite is formed. It happens if the electricity meets clean, dry sand with enough heat to melt it. They're apparently quite rare, as they're both generally pretty small and rather fragile, being just a thin layer of glass and all, but if you find a big one, you can sell it for a good $70, should you be so inclined.

I'm sure you can see where I'm going with this: if the conditions are just right, the Tampa Bay Lightning could end this evening with something that has a bit of value to take with them.

The Lightning come into tonight's game with a 14-5-0 record and are seated pretty firmly (for now) atop the Eastern Conference. Regardless of the outcome of tonight's action, they'll be there in the morning. (They have three points on the second place Boston Bruins.)  The Coyotes are 13-4-3 and are in third place in a very tough Pacific Division. How tough is this division? Consider that the Coyotes have more standings points than the Lightning, though they have also played one more game. If the Lightning were in the Pacific, they would (a) be driving mapmakers insane and (b) be competing for a wild card spot.

However, over the past several games, the Lightning have been getting better at maintaining zone time and have been managing to dominate teams not named after bears, if not always for whole games at least for parts of them. They've taken more than 60% of all even-strength shot attempts when the score is close in 3 out of their last 6 games. (They've also taken less than 50% in 3 out of their last 6 games.) If the Lightning are able to continue that, this game might add a bit to the Lightning's resume as they go on a four-game tour of the Pacific Division.

The Matchup:

At even strength, the Lightning have finally managed to get above 50% in shot attempts. In puck possession terms, they've been outperforming the Coyotes, though it's still going to be tough to score on Mike Smith (.928 ESSV). The Coyotes have given up more shot attempts than they've taken (after controlling for score effects) so far this season.

At 5v5 Close

CorsiFor%

FenwickFor%

Save%

Shooting%

GoalsFor%

TBL

50.8

50.4

.933

9.0

59.0

PHX

47.2

47.8

.933

9.2

55.8

In "luck" terms, the Lightning have been benefiting from a slightly high shooting percentage and a fairly high save percentage, and have been benefiting wildly from a very high scoring rate on the power play while only putting up the 26th best shooting rate on power plays. They're also have the league's 4th highest penalty kill save percentage while giving up the 6th highest number of shot attempts on the PK. Something's going to give in that department sooner or later.

TBL PP

19.7%

TBL PK

86.8%

PHX PK

77.9%

PHX PP

20.6%

PDO

STE

TBL

102.4 (9th)

106.5

PHX

102.5 (7th)

98.5

Phoenix's luck numbers are in a similar range at even strength, and for the same reasons. This matters when you're getting outshot a lot. They've been a bit less lucky on special teams, with a 10th ranked power play and a 26th ranked penalty kill (the Lightning are 12th and 3rd, respectively) and their luck is slightly depressed in that area.

Lineups and Game Notes:

  • This morning's skate was optional, but Damian Cristodero reports that Pierre-Cedric Labrie and Dmitry Korobov are scratches.
  • Ben Bishop gets the start for the Lightning. Five For Howling list Mike Smith as the likely starter for the Coyotes.
  • The Lightning and the Coyotes haven't faced off since January 21, 2012, when the Bolts defeated the Coyotes 4-3. That game was mostly notable for pitting Mike Smith against former goalie partner Dwayne Roloson. I don't think anyone else paid any attention to it. I can't even get photos from it.
  • The Coyotes' top goal scorer (Shane Doan) has 9 goals and 6 assists. The Lightning's top goal scorer has 14 goals and 9 assists and a broken tibia, so we'll call that a wash.
  • The Coyotes have 9 players with 10 or more points this season. The Lightning have 6. Doan and Oliver Ekman-Larsson both come into the game with multiple game point streaks.
  • All told the Coyotes have 63 goals on the season. The Lightning have 58.
  • Phoenix defenseman Zbynek Michalek is doubtful for tonight's game. Tampa Bay defensemen Keith Aulie and Mark Barberio are out and Sami Salo is in.
  • The game thread will go up at 7:30 ET this evening. Come join us.
Good luck tonight. Stay out of the box. Stop letting guys run Ben Bishop. And for all our sake, don't get hurt.
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