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Tampa Bay Lightning at Arizona Coyotes: first place vs. last place.

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The best team in the NHL squares off with the bottom dwellers of Glendale, Arizona.

Tampa Bay Lightning @ Arizona Coyotes: Game #31

Time: 9:00 Eastern Time

Location: Gila River Arena

Broadcast / Streaming: FS—A, SUN

Opponent SBNation Site: Five For Howling

Preview:

Can you believe that the season is already 30 games in for the Lightning? Neither can I. The Lightning are off to a torrid start, pacing the NHL with 46 points and an absurd 22-6-2 record, while the rebuilding Coyotes sit dead last in the league with an abysmal 7-21-5 record and only 19 points. The Coyotes GM, John Chayka, who traded for Niklas Hjalmarsson, Derek Stepan, and Antti Raanta in the offseason, certainly did not envision that his team would be in this position, but yet again, it looks certain that Arizona will be looking forward to the Draft Lottery more than the Stanley Cup Playoffs come April.

The Coyotes do, however, have a TON of young talent, some of which is already earning valuable NHL experience, such as rookies Clayton Killer Dylan Strome, Christian Fischer, and Brendan Perlini, “veterans”—in quotes because this team is so young as is—Christian Dvorak, Anthony Duclair, and Max Domi, and prospects Nick Merkley and Lawson Crouse. Technically, however, Crouse is not a prospect as he played the full year in Arizona last season before being demoted to Tucson of the AHL early this year due to a rough start.

As for the Lightning, well, things could not be going better right now (if you haven’t read the ten-game stats report yet, you should). The Bolts are enjoying a nice five-game win streak, and the injection of Tyler Johnson into the top-6 has really propelled his game to heights unseen thus far this season. I’d still love to see the Bolts acquire a veteran top-nine winger to slot in beside Killorn and Gourde on that third line or demote Johnson to third-line center duty and keep Gourde as the right winger on the second line.

Random Comparison:

In a world that seems closer to a 32-team NHL every day, let’s take a look at some attendance figures for both clubs, as well as the now defunct Atlanta Thrashers.

The Lightning have sold out a club record 120+ consecutive home games and sit sixth in average attendance league-wide this season with 19,092. As for the Yotes, they sit 28th in the League in home attendance with an average of 13,429 guests, which represents 78.4% of Gila River Arena’s capacity. The clubs below them are the Panthers at 29th, the Hurricanes at 30th, and the Islanders dead last.

An interesting note here is that in the Thrashers’ brief history, their home attendance never dipped below an average of 13,469 fans per season—that figure coming in their last campaign of 2010-11 before being moved to Winnipeg. Across their 11-year history, the Thrashers averaged 14,914 fans per game, which represented 80.4% of the capacity of Philips Arena.

(Are the Coyotes interested in a move to Seattle, though?)

Just some interesting research.…That is all.

Tampa Bay Lightning:

Forward Lines:

Vladislav Namestnikov — Steven Stamkos — Nikita Kucherov

Ondrej Palat — Brayden Point — Tyler Johnson

Alex Killorn — Yanni GourdeCory Conacher

Chris Kunitz — Cedric Paquette — Ryan Callahan

Defense Pairings:

Victor Hedman — Jake Dotchin

Mikhail Sergachev — Anton Stralman

Slater Koekkoek — Dan Girardi

Goaltenders:

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Peter Budaj

Lineup Notes:

Braydon Coburn continues nursing an undisclosed (*sigh*) “day-to-day” injury….We all know what that means. I’d venture to guess that Koekkoek plays again, while Sustr butters that popcorn. It remains to be seen if Callahan will draw in tonight after sitting due to an injury on Tuesday night.

Arizona Coyotes:

Forward Lines:

Brendan Perlini — Derek Stepan — Tobias Rieder

Max Domi — Christian Dvorak — Anthony Duclair

Clayton KellerDylan Strome — Christian Fischer

Jordan MartinookBrad RichardsonNick Cousins

Defense Pairings:

Oliver Ekman-LarssonJason Demers

Jakob ChychrunAlex Goligoski

Kevin ConnautonLuke Schenn

Goaltenders:

Antti Raanta

Scott Wedgewood