Florida Panthers Vs. Phoenix Coyotes: Game 34 Preview

The Cats are right in the thick of it while Phoenix finds themselves losing ground in the playoff race. Are the Panthers hungry enough to fight off the starving Coyotes?

Florida will be hosting the Phoenix Coyotes at Bank Atlantic Centre tonight in the only meeting between the two clubs this season. Florida has an 8-2-5 home record this season while the Coyotes are 9-6-1 away from Arizona. Florida will be playing in the final game of a four game homestand, having gone 2-0-1 thus far. They went to overtime before losing to the New Jersey Devils in a 3-2 shootout decision on Tuesday night. On Friday they again went to the shootout, this time against the Calgary Flames, before winning 3-2. On Sunday night the Panthers beat the Carolina Hurricanes, 3-2 in overtime. It was the first overtime winner for the Cats this season. The Coyotes have lost four of their last five, falling out of the final playoff position in the Western Conference, and are starting a stretch in which 10 of their next 13 games will be played on the road.

The last time the two teams met was December 4, 2010 in Phoenix. The Panthers needed the skill competition to decide the outcome, outlasting the Coyotes, 2-1 when Michael Frolik beat Coyotes goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov in the fifth round of the shootout. Frolik also had scored the regulation goal for the Cats. Mike Santorelli and Stephen Weiss also tallied markers in the shootout. Scott Clemmensen stopped 40 of 41 shots in the victory.

Panthers @ Coyotes 12/4/10 (via NHLVideo)


In Florida's last game, the Panthers beat the Carolina Hurricanes, 3-2 in overtime. Sean Bergenheim scored his seventh goal of the season in the first period, Jason Garrison scored his tenth of the year on a power play in the third period, and Kris Versteeg scored the game winner in overtime, his team best 16th goal of the season. Jose Theodore stopped 24 of 26 shots in the victory for Florida.


Hurricanes @ Panthers 12/18/11 (via NHLVideo)

The Coyotes are coming off a last second, and I do mean last second (see below) loss to the New York Rangers, 3-2. Lauri Korpikoski and Cal O'Reilly scored for the Coyotes and Mike Smith allowed three goals on 30 shots in the loss.

Rangers @ Coyotes 12/17/11 (via NHLVideo)

Season Series: 0-0-0
All-Time Series: 9-9-5
Game Time: 7:30 EST


Standings

Florida Panthers: 18-9-6, 42 points, first Southeast Division, third Eastern Conference, eighth NHL, on pace for 104 points.

Phoenix Coyotes, 16-13-3, 35 points, third Pacific Division, ninth Western Conference, 16th NHL, on pace for 90 points.

Injuries:


Florida Panthers Injuries

Questionable

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Kris Versteeg undisclosed 12/19/2011

Out (IR / Out / Suspended / Physically unvailable)

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Marcel Goc concussion 11/17/2011
Scottie Upshall other-excused 11/11/2011
Jack Skille shoulder 12/17/2011


Phoenix Coyotes Injuries

Out (IR / Out / Suspended / Physically unvailable)

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Rostislav Klesla other-excused 12/04/2011



Goaltenders:

Jose Theodore (13-6-4) may get the start in goal for the Panthers tonight. Mike Smith (14-10-3) will likely make the appearance for Phoenix.

Forwards: (pure conjecture, injuries have necessitated excessive shuffling)

1.  Weiss - Fleischmann- Kopecky

2. Bergenheim - Matthias - Sturm

3. Samuelsson - Santorelli -Bradley

4. Barch - Kennedy - Thomas

Defense:

1. Campbell - Garrison

2. Jovanovski - Ellerby

3. Kulikov - Weaver

Common Thread:

Phoenix left winger Ray Whitney played in 273 games for the Panthers over four seasons, scoring 97 goals, 130 assists, a plus-seven rating and 109 penalty minutes.

Panthers defenseman Ed Jovanovski played in 332 games over five seasons in Phoenix. He scored 47 goals and 117 assists with a minus-42 rating and 336 penalty minutes.

Florida left winger Scottie Upshall played in 129 games over three seasons for the Coyotes, scoring 42 goals and 30 assists with a plus-12 rating and 118 penalty minutes.


Team Milestones:

Ed Jovanovski's  next goal will be his 32nd, which will move him into a tie for 32nd with Richard Zednik. His next assist will give him 60 with the Panthers, tying him with Dave Lowry, in 28th.

Mike Santorelli's next goal will be number 25 as a Panther, moving him into a tie with Mike Van Ryn in 44th place all-time. 

Shawn Matthias' next goal will give him 21, moving him into a tie for 47th with Brett McLean.

Dmitry Kulikov's next assist will give him 51 for his career, moving him past Niklas Hagman into 38th place.  One more point for Kulikov will give him 63, moving him past Dave Gagner into 47th place.

Stephen Weiss is second all-time with 230 assists, one less than Olli Jokinen.


Team Leaders:

Goals:

Kris Versteeg - 16

Tomas Fleischmann - 12

Stephen Weiss -11

Assists:

Brian Campbell -23

Stephen Weiss -21

Tomas Fleischmann, Kris Versteeg - 18

Points:

Kris Versteeg - 34

Stephen Weiss -32

Tomas Fleischmann - 30

Plus/Minus:

Stephen Weiss - plus-18

Kris Versteeg  - plus-17

Tomas Fleischmann - plus-16

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