The Phoenix Coyotes are looking to set a franchise record for wins by defeating the Panthers tonight here at the Bank Atlantic Center against a Panther team that embarrased themselves two nights ago. The Coyotes who were on the verge of extinction, moving, and complete disappearence from the NHL have been the surprise of the league.
Their best move appears to be having former NHL player Dave Tippett, who last coached in Dallas, come in and steer the titantic ship back on course. Tippett known for his disciplined style of play, and for his accountability has changed the entire outlook and performance of this Coyotes team. In addition to that, the roster has had a makeover of over 30 percent and after making seven trades at the deadline this year the Coyotes are 6-0-0 and are sitting in the fourth spot in the Western Conference with 91 points with 12 games to go. Getting 100 or more is obviously in reach for this club which seems to have a nice balance of youth and veteran leadership, without the “superstar”.
They get balanced scoring from all their lines and no one has more than Radim Vrbata’s 21 goals, and the leading point getter is captain Coyote Shane Doan, a lifelong Coyote, and the face of the franchise. Doan leads the ‘Yotes with 51 points. Recently adding Lee Stempniak at the deadline from Toronto, Stepmniak has six goals and two assists since his arrival, and also added from Colorado was Wojtek Wolski who has two goals and two assists.
In goal and probably the one player most responsible for their record is Ilya Bryzgalov who has a 37-18-4 record this season with a .922 save percentage and eight shutouts. Bryzgalov is 5-0-0 in his last five starts and will most likely get the call tonight. He is backed up by former L.A. King goalie Jason LaBabera.
This is a team that is a perfect example of believing in themselves, buying into the coaches system, and working hard every night, every shift. No one predicted these guys would be anywhere near the playoffs, and they are firmly entrenched in it and could win at least one round. No superstar either, and that says alot for the team, the coaching staff and management for the way they have built their roster. Also, don’t forget it’s a bit of a homecoming for former Panther Ed Jovonoski.
Speaking of the Panthers, they might have forward Nathan Horton back in the lineup tonight after his recovery from a broken leg on a shot by former Panther defenceman Dennis Seidenberg. Not sure at this typing for if Horton plays tonight or not, but I get the feeling Little Stevie wants him back, as Stevie is slumping terribly. No points in his last five games, and only one even strength goal since Horton‘s been out which covers 17 games. Remember when our crackpot announcers were telling us that Weiss deserved consideration for the Olympics? Well, it’s been all downhill from there. At one point it was possible (not really) for Weiss to have gotten 35 goals this year. Now he’ll be lucky if he gets 25 or 26.
Note to Panthers management: Weiss is NOT a number one center. Please find a real number one center for next season! This one is to small, frail and is looking very tired.
Not much else to say about Florida here as they are 13th in the East and 8 points behind the Bruins. Climbing over five teams at this point is like asking your insurance company to sell you insurance on your house that’s burning. Not happening.
Tomas Vokoun is probably back in net after being pulled in Tuesday nights game against Washington. Not his fault as he was left out to dry and got no support from his defence or his forwards in that one.
It’s going to be an intersting night, but most likely the most entertaining game will be Boston hosting Pittsburgh and the Matt Cooke watch! Retaliation by the Bruins? We’ll see.
As for this one, the Panthers can make it close and even though it’s a non-conference game, they may not realize that it’s another two points that they have to have.
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