LIGHTNING (14-5-0) at COYOTES (13-4-3)
Season series: This is the first of two games between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Phoenix Coyotes, who haven't met since Jan. 21, 2012. The Lightning won that game 4-3.
Big story: The Coyotes, who are 8-0-1 at home, begin a three-game homestand with this game. The Lightning, who begin a four-game road trip exclusively against Pacific Division competition, look to stay perfect against the Western Conference. They are 7-0-0, including 5-0-0 on the road.
Coyotes: Phoenix is coming off a 5-4 shootout loss against the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday, in which the Coyotes allowed a season-high 52 shots. Mike Smith made 48 saves. It was the third time this season the Coyotes have allowed 50 or more shots; they allowed 51 shots to the San Jose Sharks on Oct. 5, and 50 to the Sharks on Nov 2.
"The amount of time spent in our own zone really takes its toll on you, so that's another reason there's so many shots against (Smith)," said defenseman Michael Stone, who scored twice in the loss. "We've got to work on cutting that down and taking care of the puck a little better. I think it would've helped us out a lot if we would've spent a little more time in their zone in the third period."
Phoenix, which is 6-1-1 vs. Eastern Conference teams, plays its next three games at home against three of the top teams in the League. After the Lightning, the Coyotes host the Avalanche and Ducks.
Smith will be back in goal vs. the Lightning, the team he played 118 games for from 2007-11.
Smith owns a 10-1-3 record in his past 14 decisions and he leads all NHL goaltenders in shots against (607), games played (18), and saves (557).
“Our games have been spread out where he’s getting the rest he needs,” Head Coach Dave Tippett said when asked about Smith's heavy workload. “... We’ve got a plan in place and we’ll make sure he’s able to play at the top of his game and not get tired out.”
Captain Shane Doan has notched eight goals and five assists in his past 12 games, including his current five-game point streak. Meanwhile, defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson is riding a career-high four-game point streak (one goal, four assists).
Lightning: No Steven Stamkos? No problem. The Lightning have gone 2-0-0 in their star's absence, as he recovers from surgery after breaking his right tibia. Their latest win came Thursday, a 5-1 thumping of the No. 1 team in the NHL, the Anaheim Ducks.
Ben Bishop won his sixth game in a row and has been so impressive that only three teams (Ducks, Lightning and Colorado Avalanche) have more wins than his 13.
"He didn't get any work, but when we needed him, he was there," Head Coach John Cooper said after Bishop turned aside 25 Anaheim shots.
Who's hot: Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle is first among NHL defensemen with his 15 assists and is also tied for the League lead in defensemen home scoring with 11 points... Bishop is 6-0-0 in November with a 1.30 goals-against average and .956 save percentage. Valtteri Filppula has four goals and two assists in six games for the Lightning. …
Injury report: The Coyotes are without defenseman Derek Morris, who is on injured reserve with a lower-body injury. Defenseman Zbynek Michalek (lower body) missed Thursday's game but might return tonight... The Lightning come in with five players on injured reserve: Defensemen Mattias Ohlund (knee), Brian Lee (knee) and Keith Aulie (upper body) and forwards Tom Pyatt (collarbone) and Stamkos (broken tibia). Sami Salo has missed the past two games with a lower-body injury and is questionable.
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