The Arizona Coyotes' most recent homestretch has turned out better than probably anyone expected, with wins against the Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning and Vancouver Canucks. Unfortunately the final two games will be the toughest, and it remains to be seen if the Desert Dogs can find success against their Pacific Division rivals, the Los Angeles Kings.
View From Los Angeles
For more on the Los Angeles Kings, check out Jewels From the Crown.
Oh how the Pacific Division has changed in the past few seasons, it wasn’t long ago that the Kings won their two Stanley Cups. As of right now though the Kings are currently on the outside of the playoffs looking in, while teams like the Edmonton Oilers and the Calgary Flames are in the playoffs.
Granted, the Kings are only one point behind the Flames and the St Louis Blues, and they have three games in hand against the Flames, so they are still very much in the playoff hunt. And if the Kings do make it into the playoffs, history has shown that they are able to play at another level. It should be noted that the Kings are doing all of this without their star goaltender Jonathan Quick, but with a 2.06 goals against average and a .919 save percentage,Peter Budaj has been an incredibly solid backup this season.
Last season seemed to be a wakeup call for the Kings, and it remains to be seen if they’ve fully woken up. Taking the C away from Dustin Brown and giving it to Anze Kopitar seemed like the right move, although Kopitar is currently on pace for the lowest points in a season of his career (including the lockout shortened season). Drew Doughty won his first Norris Trophy last season, but the way things are looking this season he won’t be getting his second after this year.
View From Arizona
Going into the All Star Game the Coyotes did something they hadn’t done yet this season, they won three games in a row. To say that the Coyotes have struggled this season would be a severe understatement, but the past few games have given Yotes fans reasons to have hope for the future.
Their last game the Coyotes were able to keep the Canucks from having a shot on goal until the 28 minutes into the game, their game against the Lightning proved the offensive potential of the young Yotes team with a 5-3 win, and their game against the Panthers was a solid all-around game which saw the Coyotes win 3-2 in overtime.
While the Coyotes play in the past four is good for the morale of the team and fans alike, what’s probably more important is the younger players are contributing to the success of the team. Christian Fischer has two goals, Jakob Chychrun has a goal and two assists, and Brendan Perlini and Lawson Crouse both have a goal. And while the team isn’t going to make it to the playoffs this season, the younger players being productive is definitely a good sign.
1. Will the pre-All Star momentum continue? The Yotes managed to put together three solid games for the first time this season. While the win streak isn’t going to continue forever, and while their games weren’t perfect, they Yotes have some momentum for the first time this season, and the team needs to keep it up.
2. Can the Coyotes beat Budaj? Some goalies benefit from the team that plays in front of them, and the case can be made that Jonathan Quick benefited during his career by playing behind a solid LA team. That being said, even with the Kings in front of him, Budaj has been very impressive this season and shouldn’t be taken lightly.
3. How much offense will the Kings have? Historically the Kings do not score a lot of goals. Currently only three teams in the Western Conference have scored fewer goals than them, granted they are also currently higher up in the standings compared to two teams that have scored more then them.
Players the Watch
Kings – Jeff Carter. Carter has been having one of the best seasons of his career. In 49 games he has managed to score as many goals as he did in 77 games last season. He’s been relatively quiet the past few games, and he was held pointless in his game against the Coyotes earlier this season, he remains an offensive threat that shouldn’t be underestimated.
Coyotes – Tobias Rieder. While some fans questioned Rieder’s decision to hold out until he got the contract he wanted, he has proven that he is worth pay raise this season. He has three goals and two assists in the past three games, including an overtime game winner, and is currently on pace for his best season of his three-year career. That’s pretty good for a player that was once acquired for Kale Kessy.
Matt Greene and Tyler Toffoli are both out indefinitely and there is very real potential that Greene will miss the rest of the season. Jonathan Quick is likely to be out until early March, and Nic Dowd is questionable for tonight’s match.
Max Domi and Brad Richardson are still out indefinitely for the rest of the season with hand and leg injuries respectively. Domi and Richardson both skated yesterday though, and there are positive signs they could be close to returning.
Tonight’s game will begin at 7 PM Arizona time and will be airing on Fox Sports Arizona and ESPN Phoenix 620 AM.