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Phoenix Coyotes vs. Los Angeles Kings - Game #39 Preview

Well it's December 26th and the Coyotes are sitting in 4th place in the Western Conference and 6th place overall in the NHL. How's that for surprising with all the "experts" picking us close to, if not, dead last in the league this year? As Dave Tippet said though, you don't get anything for being there halfway through. With that in mind tonight we have a very important matchup with the Kings. The Kings have a game in hand on us and are only one point back in the standings. A win tonight is important in starting to create some space between us and the teams below to give us some margin for error in being able to absorb a loss here and there. Luckily we really only had a normal two day break for the holidays rather than an extended one as the Coyotes have been on a hot streak lately.

Another important thing to remember about this game is that it'll be Shane Doan appreciation night as the organization recognizes the captain for playing 1000 games with the club. While they may have put it off until game 1003, the building should be quite full with it being a give away night and a Saturday night game. I hope that means that Arena is a bit more full that usual.

Five for Winning

The Kings for some odd reason had an eight day layoff since their last game. In that time the Coyotes moved ahead of them in the standings, they had a holiday break and they got a few players back from injury. Ryan Smyth and Wayne Simmonds will both be back, but the Kings had been playing pretty well without Smyth for the month or so he was out so maybe he can blow up the line chemistry a little bit.

Off... Fence?
I'm not really used to this stuff. I get that you're supposed to score goals and all, but suddenly we've found the goal scoring light switch or something. Doan-Lombardi-Upshall has been great at making the other team look like they're killing a penalty at even strength, but the other lines are now finding openings too. Our Czech line has been scoring, Taylor Pyatt got another one against the Ducks and even Robert Lang got one off a nice Peter Mueller assist. We were a pretty hot team before when we were winning defensively, but now we're adding goal scorring on top of it and we look like a dangerous team.

The D is Still Great
One of the annoying Ducks announcers said at the end of the last game that the Coyotes simply put a "Defensive blanket" over the Ducks squad. That's not far from the truth. I remember watching last year's team and constantly being frustrated with how the opposition gained the blue line and skated pucks in. This year our guys make it difficult to simply skate in the neutral zone, much less gain the blue. It's been fun to watch the guys as a unit simply shut down other teams and make star players invisible. Gezlaf the other night, Nash before him. Winning gets easier when the opposing stars can't make anything happen.

Bryz for Everything
Legit Vezina candidate and now Russian Olympic team goalie Ilya Bryzgalov continues to be impressive. Leading the league in shutouts 3rd in GAA and 5th in Sv%. The nice thing though is that he doesn't even have to be great every night. the aforementioned defense makes it so that the vast majority of shots he faces in a game are of such poor quality that he makes winning look easy. DOn't get me wrong, Bryz is still playing lights out, but with the help of his defensive minded team he can really shine.

Keep Ignoring the Press

At the beginning of the year it was important to ignore the papers, the internet and generally everyone in order to block out all the negative BS that was coming out about the team. Hopefully that prepared the guys on how to ignore them now that those stories are starting to flip into talking about how surprising the team has been and how well they are playing. Tippett has talked about how the guys come to work each day and just focus on one game at a time. That'll be important down the stretch as while we've looked good, anything can happen in a tight Western Conference.

Key Players

Shane Doan

#19 / Right Wing / Phoenix Coyotes



Oct 10, 1976

It's his night. And he's been playing well with his new linemates. Time for his first (phrase that I'm not saying so I don't jinx it but has to do with a ceratin one digit number of things) tonight? I think it might be time.

Ryan Smyth

#94 / Left Wing / Los Angeles Kings



Feb 21, 1976

He's been out for a while, but he's a pretty good player I guess. Hopefully we can welcome him back from the IR in style. take core of that will you Hanzal?

The Owie List

Phoenix Coyotes Injuries


Player Injury Type Injury Date
Vernon Fiddler other-excused 12/26/2009

Out (IR / Out / Suspended / Physically unvailable)

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Kurt Sauer head 10/07/2009

Los Angeles Kings Injuries


Player Injury Type Injury Date
Jack Johnson ankle 12/26/2009
Wayne Simmonds knee 12/26/2009
Brandon Segal knee 12/26/2009

Out (IR / Out / Suspended / Physically unvailable)

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Jarret Stoll groin 12/15/2009
Andrei Loktionov shoulder 11/26/2009