The Coyotes were inches away from victory last night, but found themselves only able to grab the loser point at home. Now, they find themselves going on the road to challenge their greatest rival a mere 24 hours later, on national TV no less. With time running out on the season, the Coyotes need a win to help their playoff push and stay ahead of the suddenly hot Dallas Stars. Will the Kings oblige them?
Los Angeles Kings
The Kings must really not like the Coyotes. After Phoenix rallied to defeat LA 4-3 on St. Patrick's Day (becoming the first opponent to beat the Kings when trailing after the second period: 21-1, never forget), the Kings bounced back by winning their next six games in a row. The seventh game after the collapse was against the Minnesota Wild, whom the Coyotes are chasing in the standings. LA, with thoughts of their burning distaste for all things Coyotes in their heads, promptly blew a 2-1 third period lead to Minnesota and lost 3-2 on Monday night. Thanks for nothing Los Angeles.
The Kings are led by the usual suspects in Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, Mike Richards and all-world (as proven in the Olympics) defenseman Drew Doughty. Trade deadline newcomer Marian Gaborik has proven to be yet another savvy acquisition from GM Dean Lombardi. He's tallied three goals and six assists since coming over from Columbus 13 games ago. But the hottest King might actually blueliner Alec Martinez. He doesn't get a lot of minutes, but he's been producing in the time he's been given with seven goals and five assists in 16 games since the Olympic break ended.
Jonathan Quick will likely man the pipes against the Coyotes tonight. While Quick is once again having another fine season, he's struggled against the Coyotes in 2013-14. He's 1-2-0 against Phoenix this season with a 3.70 GAA and a .869 SV%. Phoenix could certainly use another Quick performance like that tonight.
The Coyotes could use some continued success against the Kings after last night's tough shootout loss to the Winnipeg Jets. Taking the point was good, but Phoenix needed both points and can't continue to let unclaimed points slip through their fingers. Every man needs to step up tonight and play big on the second night of a back to back with a national TV audience watching.
One place where the Coyotes have really been struggling since the last time these two teams met has been third period play. The Coyotes have played seven games since their two goal, third period comeback victory against LA on March 17th. In those seven games, Phoenix has been outscored 9-0 in the third period. That simply can't continue if this team wants to make the playoffs.
Keys to the Game
Face-offs. The Kings are the NHL's 3rd best face-off team, Phoenix ranks sixth. Winning the face-off gives you a huge edge in trying to control play which comes in handy against a possession driven team like LA. Hopefully, Antoine Vermette can continue where he left off last night when he won 16 of 19 draws for a ludicrous 84% success rate.
No dumb penalties. These teams don't like each other. There's going to be a lot of hitting and with the season running out of time, there will be a mix of desperation as well. Phoenix needs to stay disciplined and not get drawn into taking unnecessary penalties. LA's powerplay isn't particularly dangerous, but every two minutes shorthanded is two minutes less for us to attack.
Two points. With only five games left after this one, the Coyotes have to leave Staples Center with two points tonight. Every man needs to bring his "A" game and leave nothing in the tank after tonight. Blocking shots, taking the body and driving the net will have to be in overdrive.
Player to Watch
|2013 - Shane Doan||20||24||44||-7||32|
Shane Doan will need to lead by example tonight. A replay of his awe-inspiring two goal, 11 shot, 13 hit performance from March 19th of last year would be a welcome sight. The Captain has struggled recently with only one goal in the last eight games. Hopefully playing the Kings will get him back on track, he has two goals and four points in the previous four games against LA this year.
Likely Starting Goaltender
Thomas Greiss will get the nod once again tonight. He's been stellar since Mike Smith has gone down with a 1.69 GAA and a .933 SV% in four starts. He's started one career game against the Kings, a 30 save shutout back on January 28th of this year. In his career, he's got a 1.41 GAA and a .944 SV% against LA, mostly in mop up duty while with the Sharks.
Both teams enter play tonight fairly healthy. The Kings only listed injury is an undisclosed one for forward Dwight King, who is questionable for tonight's game.
With the game in LA, tonight's start time is 7:30 pm Arizona time. It will be broadcast on national TV via NBCSN, so check your local listings for that channel. If you don't get NBCSN, you can listen to the game on KMVP 860 AM.