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Los Angeles Kings @ Phoenix Coyotes preview: the boys are back in town

Los Angeles and Phoenix make their return to Arena tonight. Who will leave with a victory?

Christian Petersen

The Phoenix Coyotes have had a rough January. But as the month comes to an end they will encounter a familiar foe in the Los Angeles Kings. This game in particular is one the Coyotes can and must come away from with two points.

Matchup at a Glance

Los Angeles Kings Phoenix Coyotes
Points 66 (3rd Pacific) 58 (5th Pacific)
Goals Per Game 2.35 (26th) 2.83 (11th)
Goals Against Per Game 2.02 (1st) 3.00 (25th)
Power Play Percentage 14.0% (27th) 20.0% (T-9th)
Penalty Kill Percentage 84.6% (T-5th) 79.6 (22nd)

Los Angeles Kings

The Los Angeles Kings have been on a downward slide as their offensive production has lagged. In the past three games, LA has scored three goals, including a 3-0 blanking against Anaheim outdoors at the NHL's inaugural Stadium Series game. The good news for the Kings is that Jonathan Quick has returned from injury and returned to form apparently. In last night's game against San Jose, Quick shutout a very potent Sharks offense for a 1-0 victory.

Phoenix Coyotes

The Olympic break cannot come soon enough for the Coyotes. Their latest swing through Western Canada was a mixed bag for the Desert Dogs, as they went 1-1-1. Neither of the games in which they picked up points left fans with a good taste in their mouths; their victory in Edmonton was almost a loss as the team conceded three goals to go from 4-0 to 4-3. In the Vancouver game, the Coyotes had two stretches of the game in which they gave up two goals within two minutes of each other.

The status of the roster has also been more of a mixed bag. In their win, key roster players like Mike Ribeiro, Radim Vrbata, and Mikkel Boedker all registered tallies. While none of these players would score in Vancouver, Antoine Vermette essentially carried the team to OT with a hat trick, though they couldn't close the deal in the extra frame.

Both the defensive corps and the goaltending remain problematic for the Coyotes. The Canucks game winner came off a blown assignment on Kevin Bieksa and Mike Smith's inability to control the rebound. Rookie Connor Murphy will return to the parent club, but building a string of strong defensive performances remains a challenge Phoenix has yet to resolve.

Keys to the Game

  • Stay in Front - Mike Smith plays better with leads and the defense plays better when the opposing offense is kept in front of them. That needs to happen tonight.
  • Play a Full Sixty - Phoenix was nearly victimized in Edmonton by not playing the full game. Two bad stretches in Vancouver cost the team four goals. The Coyotes must play the whole game as hard as they can.
  • No Free Passes - Los Angeles' offense remains surprisingly anemic. Spotting them easy chances is a recipe for disaster.

Players to Watch

Dustin Brown

#23 / Right Wing / Los Angeles Kings



Nov 04, 1984

G A P +/- PIM
2013 - Dustin Brown 10 6 16 7 50

The Kings' captain and the Coyotes' captain don't get along very much. I wonder why?

Derek Morris

#53 / Defenseman / Phoenix Coyotes



Aug 24, 1978

G A P +/- PIM
2013 - Derek Morris 5 12 17 7 33

You could place any defenseman in this slot. Bottom line is they need to play better on the back end.

Projected Starting Goaltenders

Martin Jones

#31 / Goalie / Los Angeles Kings



Jan 10, 1990

2013 - Martin Jones 12 697 8 4 20 1.72 335 315 .940 3

Jonathan Quick turned in a stellar start last night against the San Jose Sharks, so there's a good chance Jones will be the one in net for tonight's game.

Mike Smith

#41 / Goalie / Phoenix Coyotes



Mar 22, 1982

2013 - Mike Smith 44 2597 18 15 126 2.91 1374 1248 .908 1

Smith's rebound control got him into trouble in Vancouver, but he will likely sink or swim on his own throughout the rest of the season.

UPDATE: Thomas Greiss was first off the ice, so he will be the likely starter tonight.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Greiss first off the ice for <a href=";src=hash">#Coyotes</a>.</p>&mdash; Sarah McLellan (@azc_mclellan) <a href="">January 28, 2014</a></blockquote>

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Injury Report

The Los Angeles Kings will be without defenseman Matt Greene, who is out indefinitely with a concussion. The Coyotes skate injury free at this point.

Puck Drop

Game time is 7 PM Arizona time. You can watch the game on Fox Sports Arizona or tune into Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.