With an NHL-record 894 career goals, Wayne Gretzky never went too long without finding the back of the net.
Coach Gretzky, though, can’t claim that about his Phoenix Coyotes, who have gone six-plus periods without a goal.
Phoenix looks to snap a two-game losing streak on Thursday night against the Rick Tocchet-led Tampa Bay Lightning when the former Coyotes player, assistant and interim coach returns to Phoenix for the first time as a head coach.
The Coyotes (19-17-5), meanwhile, fell for the fourth time in as many meetings with Chicago, 6-0 on Tuesday.
“They’re a pretty good team, first of all,” said Gretzky, whose team has been shut out five times in 2008-09. “They play hard and thank God we’re done with them.”
Phoenix, which lost 2-0 at Anaheim on Sunday, has gone 126:27 without a goal. The Coyotes’ last tally was a third-period goal by Joakim Lindstrom in their 5-4 win over the New York Islanders on Friday.
“We have to come out on a mission next game and make sure that come the first period we’re ready and we’re going to score,” said center Kyle Turris, who has no goals in his last eight games. “If somebody has to eat a post to put it in the net then that’s what we’re going to do.”
Phoenix failed to score on all seven of its power-play opportunities against Chicago. The Coyotes have not converted on their last 27 power-play attempts and are 29th in the NHL, making just 12.6 percent with the man advantage. Tampa Bay, meanwhile, has allowed just one power-play goal in the last four games.
Mikael Tellqvist faced 13 shots in the first 20 minutes against the Blackhawks, but allowed four goals. He was pulled for Ilya Bryzgalov, who stopped 26 of 28 shots in the final two periods. Tellqvist is 1-2-1 with a 3.37 goals-against average in his career against Tampa Bay, while Bryzgalov has never faced the Lightning.
Not all news is bad for the slumping Coyotes as Shane Doan was named to the All-Star team on Wednesday. The 13th-year right wing has a team-high 18 goals and 20 assists this season.
Tocchet, who played alongside Doan with the Coyotes from 1997-00, returns to Phoenix after becoming a Lightning assistant last July. Tocchet’s time as a Phoenix assistant was marred as he was suspended from the league for three months in 2007 for his role in a sports betting ring. Tocchet left the Coyotes’ staff from Feb. 2006-Feb. 2008 to deal with the charges.
This season, though, Tocchet, the team’s interim coach, has guided Tampa Bay to a 6-16-6 record since taking over for the fired Barry Melrose on Nov. 14, In their last 11 games, though, the Lightning are 5-4-2 following a nine-game losing streak from Nov. 23-Dec. 10.
Tampa Bay (11-18-10) is coming off a 4-1 win over Atlanta as it opened a five-game road trip.
Martin St. Louis, who has a team-leading 37 points, had two goals against the Thrashers. In his last 11 games, St. Louis has seven goals and seven assists. Facing the Coyotes, St. Louis has four goals and five assists in 11 career games.
Mike Smith nearly picked up his third shutout of the season on Sunday, allowing a goal with 21.2 seconds left after stopping the first 27 shots he faced.
“I wanted to get the shutout for Smitty,” said Tocchet, who went 3-3 as Phoenix’s interim coach in 2005-06 while Gretzky took a leave of absence to be with his ailing mother.
Smith is 2-1-0 with a 3.01 GAA in his career against the Coyotes.
Tampa Bay has won six straight against the Coyotes, including the last three meetings in Phoenix.