Phoenix Coyotes at Florida Panthers - Game 34 Preview

Florida: 18-9-6 (42PTS)
Phoenix: 16-13-3 (35PTS)
Season Series: 0-0-0
Game Time: 7:30 PM EST
Television: Fox Sports Florida
Radio: 560 WQAM

Tonight's matchup features two teams that have done what everyone said they couldn't. Last season, no one pegged the Coyotes to be a playoff team. They lost their high profile coach (Wayne Gretzky), they were broke, the league had to step in and take ownership and the entire season was played under threat of the team being moved. The team and coach Dave Tippet just quietly went about their business and ended up on the wrong end of a playoff series against the Detroit Red Wings. This season, despite the replacement of goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov with former Tampa Bay goaltender Mike Smith, who was so good for the Lightning he was replaced by 41 year old Dwayne Roloson, they're hanging just outside of a playoff spot.The Panthers, of course, were widely picked to end up at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, but have been sitting at the top of the Southeast Division with at least a five point cushion for several weeks now.

My first Panthers game was against the Coyotes. I picked that game because my favorite NHL player, Jeremy Roenick, played for them at the time. He would score the lone goal for the Coyotes in that game, which I think they lost by 4 or 5 to 1. The two teams have swapped their share of players over the years. Former Panthers Keith Ballard and Nick Boynton came from Phoenix in the Olli Jokinen trade, and current Panthers Scottie Upshall and Ed Jovanovski both played there.

More from our Phoenix cohorts at Five For Howling.
Coyotes vs Panthers coverage at SB Nation.
TSN Preview.
LBC Game Thread will open 30 minutes prior to puck drop.

News and Notes

Last meeting

Michael Frolik had the overtime game winner and Scott Clemmensen the win in goal as the Panthers edged the Coyotes in Phoenix last December.

Last game

The Panthers came back from a 2-1 deficit at home to beat the Carolina Hurricanes in overtime on this Kris Versteeg goal:


Lineup

Sean Bergenheim scored and then was injured in Sunday's game against Carolina. Greg Rallo was returned to San Antonio and Tim Kennedy called up in his place. Former Panthers and current Rampage forward Bill Thomas signed a two-way NHL contract with the Panthers yesterday and then was called up to replace Bergenheim in today's game. Thomas was a solid bottom six defensive forward in 24 games for the Panthers last year. He also scored the lone goal in Florida's 1-0 home win against Washington at the end of last season. It is not yet known when Bergenheim will return but coach Kevin Dineen said his MRI was "encouraging."

Injuries

  • F Scottie Upshall (hip), 11/10, 6 to 8 weeks
  • F Marcel Goc (concussion), 11/16, day to day
  • F Jack Skille (shoulder), 12/16, at least a week
  • F Sean Bergenheim (lower body injury), unknown

Healthy Scratches

Starting goaltenders:

Jose Theodore will start for the Cats.

Lines

Forwards
  1. Fleischmann-Weiss-Versteeg
  2. Kopecky-Matthias-Samuelsson
  3. Bradley/Thomas-Matthias-Sturm
  4. Barch-Santorelli/Kennedy-Bradley/Thomas
Defense
  1. Campbell-Garrison
  2. Jovanovski-Gudbranson
  3. Kulikov-Weaver
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