COYOTES VS. TAMPA BAY: GAME PREVIEW
Tampa Bay at Phoenix
GAME: Tampa Bay Lightning (17-11-3) at Phoenix Coyotes (16-13-2).
TIME: Thursday, 9 p.m. EST.
The Tampa Bay Lightning had their longest winning streak of the season end Wednesday. If recent history is any indication, they should be able to bounce back quickly.
The Lightning try for their fifth straight win against Phoenix as they visit the Coyotes.
Tampa Bay lost 4-2 to the Anaheim Mighty Ducks on Wednesday, ending their five-game winning streak. Vaclav Prospal and Brad Richards each scored for the Lightning, and John Grahame allowed three goals, snapping his personal and team-record nine-game winning streak.
Martin St. Louis had his four-game goal-scoring streak and six-game points streak come to an end in the defeat.
The Lightning have won four straight games against the Coyotes since a 5-2 defeat Feb. 13, 2001, outscoring them 16-3 in those contests.
Prospal ended his 11-game goalless drought with 2:36 to play.
"So it was good for me to get one past (Anaheim goalie Jean-Sebastien) Giguere," he said. "Unfortunately, it didn't mean anything for us."
The Coyotes are coming off Tuesday's 5-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens, ending a season-best three-game winning streak. Boyd Devereaux and Mike Ricci scored for Phoenix, and Curtis Joseph stopped 23 shots.
Joseph was outplayed by Montreal counterpart Jose Theodore, who made 27 saves, in front of Wayne Gretzky - Phoenix's coach and Team Canada general manager. Both goalies are candidates for the three roster spots on Canada's Olympic team.
"I'm thinking about our team winning the hockey game and that's my only thought, and certainly we didn't put our best effort in," Joseph said. "They were much hungrier than we were and it showed. They deserved to win."
Right wing Mike Johnson had a six-game points streak end in which he had five goals and four assists.
STANDINGS: Lightning - 37 points, 2nd place, 3 PB, Southeast Division. Coyotes - 34 points, 3rd place, 5 PB, Pacific Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Lightning - Prospal and Fredrik Modin, 14 goals; Brad Richards, 23 assists; Prospal, 36 points; Pavel Kubina, 50 PIM. Coyotes - Ladislav Nagy, 12 goals, 21 assists and 33 points; Sean O'Donnell, 61 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS (through Dec. 14): Lightning - Power play: 14.8 percent (28 for 189), 24th (tied) in NHL. Penalty killing: 83.9 percent (131 for 156), 7th. Coyotes - Power play: 18.9 percent (39 for 206), 8th (tied). Penalty killing: 80.9 percent (153 for 189), 23rd (tied).
GOALTENDERS: Lightning - Grahame (14-9-1, 1 SO, 2.73 GAA); Sean Burke (3-1-2, 2.77). Coyotes - Joseph (14-8-0, 2, 2.28); David Leneveu (2-5-2, 3.20).
2003-2004 SEASON SERIES: Lightning, 1-0.
LAST MEETING: Oct. 16, 2003; Lightning, 5-1. At Tampa, Fla., St. Louis and Modin each had a goal and an assist for the Lightning.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Lightning - 7-6-2 on the road; Coyotes - 9-5-1 at home.
KEYS TO THE GAME: The key to Thursday's game for the Coyotes will be smart defensive hockey, especially in their own zone.
On Tuesday night, Phoenix made too many mistakes defensively against the Canadiens and it cost them. With the offense-happy Lightning, the Coyotes will need to limit the turnovers in their own end and show an intense commitment to defense if they are to earn their fourth victory in five games.
LECLERC UPDATE: After leaving the ice mid-way through Tuesday's game in Montreal with a knee injury, Coyotes forward Mike Leclerc did not participate in Wednesday afternoon's practice at Glendale Arena.
Leclerc is currently listed as day-to-day and his status for Thursday night's game against Tampa Bay will likely be a game-time decision.
SAPRYKIN HEALING: Phoenix forward Oleg Saprykin, who sustained a sprained knee in Sunday's contest in Boston, continues to heal but will probably not return to the ice for another 7-10 days.
Saprykin is officially listed as day-to-day.
BOUCHER TO DRESS THURSDAY: Coyotes goaltender Brian Boucher has completed a two-week conditioning assignment in San Antonio and is scheduled to serve as the back-up goaltender in Thursday's game against the Lightning.
Boucher was originally injured (groin) in the first pre-season game of the year, and sustained a knee injury in a rehab assignment several weeks ago.