By Dave Vest
SUNRISE, Fla. –
The Coyotes will try to rebound from their most gut-wrenching loss of the season tonight when they play the Florida Panthers at BankAtlantic Center. The puck drops at 5:30 p.m. (Arizona time).
The Coyotes (16-13-3) last played on Saturday and dropped a 3-2 decision to the New York Rangers on home ice. With the game seemingly headed to overtime, Rangers center Brad Richards scored the decisive goal with 0.1 left on the clock.
The loss dropped Phoenix’s record to 3-6-0 in December, their most challenging month of the season (16 games, 10 on the road).
Head Coach Dave Tippett is confident his team can turn things around this week as they play three games in four nights.
"I firmly believe some of this adversity will help us but only if we allow it to help us," Tippett said. "We've got to use it use it as a motivating factor and not as a crutch or use it as an excuse. We've gotten better as a group, but now you've got to prove that you've gotten better; not just talk about, you've got to do it."
He added, "This is obviously a tough stretch for us, but we've got to find a way to get through it."
will start in goal tonight seeking his career-best 15th victory of the season. Backup goalie Jason LaBarbera
, who missed Saturday’s game because of a “family issue,” has rejoined the team and will dress tonight.
Defenseman Rostislav Klesla
, who has missed the past seven games because of a lower-body injury, will return to the lineup (see PODCASTS
below). Meanwhile, defenseman Adrian Aucoin
will not play tonight because of a lower-body injury. He is considered day-to-day.
Newcomer David Rundblad
, whom Phoenix acquired in a trade with the Ottawa Senators over the weekend, likely will not make his Coyotes debut in this game.
The Panthers (18-9-6) have surprised observers with a fast start under rookie Head Coach Kevin Dineen. The Panthers lead the Southeast Division by eight points over second-place Winnipeg and are extremely successful on home ice; they are 8-2-5 at home, including 6-0-2 in the last eight games.
|Photo by Getty Images.
Kris Versteeg is leading the Panthers offensively with 16 goals and 34 points, and is on pace to shatter his career-best numbers.
Defenseman Jason Garrison leads all NHL defensemen with 10 goals.
Former Coyotes defenseman/alternate captain Ed Jovanovski didn’t skate on Tuesday morning, but he is expected to play against his former team. Jovanovski snapped a 16-game pointless drought with two assists during Florida’s 3-2 win over Carolina on Sunday.
► Click here
to watch Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle
talk about playing against Jovanovski for the first time.
Jose Theodore likely will be in goal for the Panthers, whose last 12 home games have each been decided by one goal.
"They're finding ways (to win)," Dineen told reporters about his players. "Sometimes it's not a thing of beauty but we're finding a way to get our two points. ... Nothing comes easy for this team."