Westward ho! Tampa Bay visits Phoenix Coyotes (preview)

WHERE:  Jobing.com Arena, Glendale, Arizona
MEDIA: 620 WDAE (Radio)

Ryan Craig didn't last with the Bolts... again. Craig has been returned to AHL Norfolk. Craig had been hoping to make the most of his opportunity with the Lightning and that had been the story in the media... But it just didn't happen for whatever reason.

Sitting-on-the-shelf defenseman Matt Smbaby was also sent to Norfolk on a conditioning stint. Smaby has yet to play a game this season and had not been utilized in the defensive rotation. Kurtis Foster has sat more times than not lately and Paul Ranger is MIA... That has given David Hale and Lukas Krajicek plenty of playing time in their steed... But never Smaby.

Martin St. Louis' scoring drought is at 12 games, and Vincent Lecavalier's current drought is at eight games. Both are head scratching concerns -- on that's been very public (Lecavalier), and one that's been dismissed because of fan-favorite status (St. Louis).

This game is not televised.

The Bolts come into Glendale with the reputation of the Coyotes being that... well, they are playing fantastic and to a small crowd nightly -- building up the anti-hockey-in-Arizona stereotype that led to Jim Balsillie's attempted purchase-and-relocation fo the team this summer.

That seems like a distant memory though, last summer's hijinx. the 'Yotes are 3rd in the Pacific division after downing the Dallas Stars last night. Yes, the Coyotes stand at 11-8-0 this season and have 22 points. If the season ended today, they'd find themselves the 8th seed in the west (owning the tie breaker with the Stars after last night's results).

...And yes, the Bolts have the second straight game against an opponent playing back-to-back games.

Shane Doan leads the team with 14 points (5 goals, 9 assists) with Ed Jovanovski and Robert Lang nipping at his heels with 13 and 11 points respectively. Former (disgruntled) Lightning wing Radim Vrbata has nine points (5 goals, for assists). The Coyotes have the 13th rated power play unit in the league (21%) and the 15th ranked PK unit (78 %).

We'll update the post with line combos later in the afternoon.

Other Previews

Tampa Bay Lightning official team preview

TSN.ca's game preview

Full Coyotes coverage at Five for Howling

[Note by John Fontana, 11/16/09 4:34 PM EST ] Mike Smith gets the start between the pipes and Mattias Ohlund will be a game time decision for the Lightning...

Tampa Bay Lightning Projected Lines

(updated November 16, 2009 by RawCharge subject to change)

Forward Lines:

Ryan Malone - Vincent Lecavalier - Paul Sczczechura
Alex Tanguay - Steven Stamkos - Martin St. Louis
James Wright - Jeff Halpern - Steve Downie
Todd Fedoruk - Zenon Konopka - Stephane Veilleux


Mattias Ohlund* | Victor Hedman
David Hale | Matt Walker
Lukas Krajicek | Andrej Meszaros


Mike Smith (Starter)
Antero Niittymaki

* gametime decision