The Phoenix Coyotes are set to face off against the Los Angeles Kings for the first of five matches this season against the Pacific Division rival. Having not seen each other since May 22 when Kings' forward Dustin Penner beat Mike Smith in overtime in Game 5 of the Western Conference Final, the tension has been given plenty of time to brew. Making Saturday's game one of the toughest each team will face.
Returning home from a quick visit in San Jose on Thursday, the Phoenix Coyotes will try and return to winning form when they take the ice against the defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Los Angeles Kings.
Losing a two goal lead in the third period to the Sharks, the Phoenix Coyotes fought a tough game at the Shark Tank but ultimately came up short on Thursday night. Turnovers, penalties, and zone clearing issues continue to plague Phoenix. Not making it any easier on the team, new addition Matthew Lombardi played only two minutes in the second period before leaving the game with a lower-body injury and did not return to the ice. The former Maple Leaf now joins key players Martin Hanzal and Rostislav Klesla and goaltender Mike Smith on the injured list. All the players, minus Lombardi are listed day to day.
The Kings, who are entering Saturday's affair desperate to stop the bleeding after dropping their first three games of the season. Most noticeable of the losses being Thursday's match up against the Edmonton Oilers. The game which involved some controversial officiating, almost became the Kings' first win of the season when Oilers' Ryan Nugent-Hopkins' game tying goal was waved off in the final minute of play. After deciding goaltender Jonathan Quick was interfered with the Oilers came back with a goal courtesy of rookie Nail Yakupov with 4.7 seconds left in regulation. The Kings' possible victory went up in flames at the 2 minute mark of overtime when Oilers' forward Sam Gagner snuck one past the Conn Smythe Trophy winner.
Five For Winning
1. Kick 'em While Down - The LA Kings are at the lowest of the low. After Thursday's fiasco, the Kings are hurt now more than ever and will come out looking for a win to resuscitate the team. Don't allow them the chance to gain traction. Regardless of this season, they still are the team that steamrolled their way to the Stanley Cup.
2. Discipline - We know the Kings' style from last season and should fully expect it cranked up to 11 when they hit the ice at Jobing.com Arena. Keep a level head and not fall for their games, let them sink themselves.
3. Defense - Undoubtably the biggest problem thus far. Limit the turnovers in the defensive zone and get pucks out. We really don't need to assist in any Kopitar goals.
4. Exposing the Flaws - The Kings are minus two important defensive pieces; Matt Greene and Willie Mitchell. Relying on younger guys to fill the holes, our top speed players should take full advantage of this and open up the D. Gaining access to the Kings' next flaw, Quick. Quick is still experiencing affects from his offseason back surgery. Make him work a bit, get pucks deep and challenge him.
5. Full 60 minutes - The Coyotes play a great 18 minutes per period…only theres two minutes going unaccounted for. Play the full game without getting sloppy in the last few minutes of periods and good things will happen.
Players to Watch
Finding traction this season seems hard for the Conn Smythe winner after the back surgery he underwent this off season. Looking to bounce back big time after the disappointing overtime loss in Edmonton, expect Quick to come out hungrier than ever.
Missing the season opener after suffering a knee injury while playing overseas during the lockout, Kopitar joined his team in Colorado in hopes of gaining their first win. Finding themselves on the outs against the Avalanche, Anze would go pointless in his return game and in Edmonton. Now feeling the heat after two, Anze Kopitar will take the ice in Glendale hoping to end his scoreless streak.
Steve Sullivan continues to tear it up on the ice for the Coyotes. A huge boost in offense and power play, Sullivan is lessening the blow of recent injuries.
Los Angeles Kings:
Matt Greene - Defense - Back
Willie Mitchell - Defense - Knee
Matthew Lombardi - Center - Upper Body
Martin Hanzal - Center - Lower Body
Rostislav Klesla - Defense - Lower Body
Mike Smith - Goaltender - Lower Body