Tonight, the Phoenix Coyotes get their third look of the season on the team that bounced them from the Western Conference Final last year, the Los Angeles Kings. The first two meetings saw two pretty different Coyotes teams show up - one that handed the Kings their first win of the season in a lackluster effort, and the second one that dominated every aspect of the game...for at least the first 35 minutes. Obviously, finding that dominating team again would be a nice change of pace after the last two games for the Coyotes.
For Phoenix, it's been over 129 minutes since they scored a goal, and this should be oft repeated as much as possible between now and the game as the key to the Coyotes victory. The defense has shored up recently, and Mike Smith has looked more like Mike Smith - now they need to add some goals, especially with leading goal scorer from last season, Radim Vrbata, sidelined indefinitely.
For the Kings, they started the season with a bit of post-"we won the frickin' Cup, so whatever" blues, but their play has much improved since then (also, bounces started going their way a bit more). They ended February like gagbusters winning 5 straight games, but have mirrored the Coyotes in March with their inability to win more than a game or two at once. The good news from that inconsistency is that the Coyotes are coming off a loss and the Kings are coming off a win, so maybe they will reverse courses and the Coyotes can start their own futile two game win streak tonight.
For some insight into the teams and what some of their followers are thinking, check out our own Carl Putnam participating in the All The Kings Men podcast this week.
Five For Winning
1. Score... Not just first, heck, I don't really care if you do score first (although that would be a plus). After 2 consecutive shutouts, it's time to start putting the puck in the net.
2. Discipline. After the first 35 minutes of dominance against LA, it was a power play goal and additional man advantage opportunities that allowed the Kings to force the issue a bit. Stay out of the box and keep the special teams play to a minimum...
3. Roll Your Lines. The Kings can beat you with their top 6, but they also can get big production from their role players as they did the other night with Kyle Clifford leading the charge. The Coyotes are similarly blessed and keeping guys like Rob Klinkhammer and Kyle Chipchura involved in the game is essential.
4. Crash the Net. Without having the exhausted Kings on the ice, goals will likely be of the uglier variety, so it will be essential to go the dirty areas to score them. This means guys like Martin Hanzal and Raffi Torres need to set up shot in front of Jonathan Quick.
5. Transition Game. Los Angeles isn't the quickest team, but they have had success frustrating the Coyotes in the past with odd man rushes and breaks. The Coyotes need to be aware of the situations and make sure they have defensive support throughout the game.
Players to Watch
#23 / Defenseman / Phoenix Coyotes
Jul 17, 1991
|2012 - Oliver Ekman-Larsson||28||3||14||17||8||16||0||0||1||63|
The $33 million man (kid, really) does it all for this team and it's pretty much guaranteed that we will be seeing a lot of him throughout these important games.
#77 / Center / Los Angeles Kings
Jan 01, 1985
|2012 - Jeff Carter||27||17||2||19||0||10||5||0||6||76|
Carter was really driving the show when the Kings got really hot in February and although he's cooled, he's still the most prolific goal scorer out there right now. Just don't expect him to be passing the puck.
#41 / Goalie / Phoenix Coyotes
Mar 22, 1982
|2012 - Mike Smith||23||1318||11||8||61||2.78||628||567||.903||4|
#32 / Goalie / Los Angeles Kings
Jan 21, 1986
|2012 - Jonathan Quick||21||1159||9||8||52||2.69||475||423||.891||0|
As I've mentioned recently, I'm the worst at predicting these things so enjoy that Jason LaBarbera - Jonathan Bernier match-up tonight. In all seriousness, though, regardless of who starts tonight for either team, the other goalies should be ready to go on Tuesday...And as our friends at Jewels from the Crown noted the other day, Bernier should really be seeing more ice time anyway.
No frickin' clue...seriously, I have no idea. I'm pretty sure that Vrbata is still out even though he is supposed to join the team, is skating, and might be close. It has been pretty quiet regarding Zbynek Michalek's injury, so who knows when he will be back on the ice. As for Los Angeles, I can't find any information that seems even remotely accurate. Hopefully someone can chime in with some comments because it's well past when I needed to go to sleep.