Phoenix Coyotes at Los Angeles Kings preview: Escape to LA

Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

The Phoenix Coyotes look to leap over the Dallas Stars by getting two points and defeating their Pacific Division rivals the Los Angeles Kings.

Phoenix Coyotes

Despite giving up a two-point lead in the second period of Saturday's game, the Coyotes were able to pull off a win against the Calgary Flames. With the Dallas Stars losing to the Winnipeg Jets last night, tonight's game against the Los Angeles Kings is now a golden opportunity for the Coyotes to jump ahead and finally retake a wild card spot.

The Kings-Coyotes rivalry (and the Phoenix-LA rivalry in general) has been hot lately. It festered during the 2011-2012 season and came to a head in the Western Conference Final when the Kings defeated the Yotes and eventually went on to beat the New Jersey Devils to win the Stanley Cup. It simmered throughout the shortened 2012-2013 season but when Jordan Nolan took out Rostislav Klesla, sending him off the ice on a stretcher in a preseason game, the heat reignited.

The season series currently sits at 2-1-0 in the Coyotes' favor with Phoenix having scored ten goals to the Kings eight, seven of which came in the first meeting of the two in Los Angeles. Now the Coyotes return to Tinsel Town in hopes of securing another two points and giving the Kings their third straight loss

Los Angeles Kings

The Kings were on an eight game tear that surprised most everyone, but hat streak ended with a tough 3-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs that was followed up by another tough loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday.

The Kings now find themselves in the middle of a five-game homestand with no wins to speak of. With Phoenix six points behind them, a tough stint could put them in the wild card position and the Coyotes back in a divisional picture (a strange turn of events, but one that is possible).

What would otherwise be a good rivalry match is now more. The Kings need to get their feet back under them and a win against the Coyotes would be a perfect opportunity to restart the engines and go hard before making a run for Lord Stanley's Cup.


Phoenix Coyotes

Los Angeles Kings

Points

75 (4th in Pacific)

82 (3rd in Pacific)

Face off Percentage

51.7 (7st in NHL)

53.0 (1st in NHL)

PP / PK Percentage

20.2 (9th) / 79.2 (27th)

14.9 (25th) / 83.1 (11th)

Goals Against per Game

2.76 (17th)

2.06 (1st)

Keys to the Game

  • From the circle: The Los Angeles Kings are the best in the NHL in the face off circle, nobody does it better. But, if the Coyotes want to win they are going to have to do better than their seventh place ranking. In the words of Tyson Nash, "Good things happen when you get the puck to the net," and the best way to start the process is by winning in the circle. It's the biggest key to the game, if the Coyotes want to do better on the power play, penalty kill, offensive zone, defensive zone, wherever and whenever they need to win as many face offs as possible.
  • He shoots!: Any opportunity to put the puck on net is a good opportunity. So far in the season the Coyotes have been outshot by the Kings 110-90, that 20 shot difference is essentially two periods worth of play, or almost what made the difference between winning that first game of the series and falling 7-4 as the Coyotes did.
  • He scores!: Not only are the Los Angeles Kings the best in the circle but on average they allow fewer goals than anyone else at 2.06 per game. The Coyotes have scored at least three in every meeting between the two teams this season. If they can keep up the pace it will help out in pulling off a win. In the case of the Kings, two goals isn't nice it's a necessity, they score 2.34 on average meaning that to get those needed to points the Yotes will need three goals. Minimum.

Player to Watch


Keith Yandle

#3 / Defenseman / Phoenix Coyotes

6-1

190

Sep 09, 1986


G A P +/- PIM
2013 - Keith Yandle 7 40 47 -18 43

The Boston boy is reminding everyone why he should have gone to Sochi. Yands has nine assists over his last nine games with two of them coming in Saturday's tilt against Calgary. Maybe those last two games would have gone differently had No. 3 been riding Team USA's blue line.

Projected Starting Goaltender


Mike Smith

#41 / Goalie / Phoenix Coyotes

6-4

215

Mar 22, 1982

GP MIN W L OTL GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2013 - Mike Smith 58 3261 25 20 10 150 2.66 1755 1605 .915 3

It has been a while since Thomas Greiss got a start, but there is no doubt Mike Smith is the hot hand. Expect Smitty to play in the rivalry game with points at a premium.

Injury Report

David Schlemko and Martin Erat are out for the Coyotes while Martin Hanzal is questionable. Dustin Brown and Kings goalie Jonathan Quick are questionable as well.

Puck Drop

The grudge match between the Kings and Coyotes begins at 7:30 p.m. and can be seen on Fox Sports Arizona and heard via radio on AZ Sports 98.7 FM. If you're outside of the Phoenix or Los Angeles market it can also be seen on NHL Network.

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