The once hot Arizona Coyotes ran into a reality check against the Edmonton Oilers to the sorry tune of a 5-2 loss. Tonight the Coyotes will have a chance to demonstrate that their performance in Oil country was just a hiccup, as they look to make amends tonight against the LA Kings.
View from Arizona
Prior to the 5-2 loss against the Oilers, the Arizona Coyotes had gone on a bit of a hot run dating back to the 19th of January against the Minnesota Wild. Since then, the Coyotes either won each game or only lost by a goal. During that stretch, the Coyotes went 6-3-1 for 13 out of a possible 20 points.
In that same span Arizona only scored less than 3 goals once, in their most recent encounter with the very defensive LA Kings, a loss on the 31st of January. For the most part, the Coyotes have been a much improved team in 2017. A large part of that improvement can be seen in the goal scoring department, an area that was severely lacking in 2016 but has been turned around by the development of rookies Christian Dvorak and Brendan Perlini and the addition of Alexander Burmistrov.
Arizona still has some faults to address however. The amount of shots they give up per game is second only to the Buffalo Sabres at 33.6 per game on average, and the Coyotes rank 6th in the NHL when it comes to penalties, averaging 10:57 penalty minutes per game. These are issues that need to be addressed for long term success. As for short term success, Arizona need to come out tonight and keep it close to prove to everyone their recent success was more than just a fluke.
View from Los Angeles
For more on the LA Kings, check out Jewels from the Crown.
LA sit one spot outside the second wild card position with 60 points from 55 games. However the have played the least amount of games compared to the other Western Conference teams vying for the wild card spot, and have 3 games on hand on the Calgary Flames who just took the second wild card position from the Kings with a 3-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers yesterday.
The Kings have gone 3-2-0 in their last 5 games, 4 of which were on an East Conference road trip. They were shutout 5-0 in both of their recent losses before exploding for a 6-3 victory against the Florida Panthers in their last match of the trip. Interesting to note is that the LA Kings have not played since last Friday. The six day break is sure to have put some rust on the Kings, but will they be as rusty as the Calgary Flames were when the Coyotes disposed of them 5-0?
LA have had a bumpy year but are still are on course to make the playoffs, where they are known to do damage regardless of how they qualify for the post season. They’ve missed Jonathan Quick all season, though Peter Budaj has been serviceable in net with a 2.11 goals against average and a .917 save percentage. The same can’t be said of backup Jeff Zatkoff, who like Louis Domingue, has not had the greatest season with a 2.95 and goals against average and a save percentage of .879. Given that the Kings haven't played for some time, we can expect Budaj to get the start against Arizona.
- How rusty will the Kings be? - With a 6 day break being one of the lengthier breaks for an individual NHL team this season, the onus will be on the Coyotes to ensure they come out hard, fast and firing in the first period, damaging the Kings before they can get their mojo back.
- Will Martin Hanzal’s goal streak continue? - Martin Hanzal now has 4 goals in his last 3 games. It seems that being under the trade deadline spotlight has really brought out the best in Arizona’s top center. Either that or the return of Max Domi has done wonders for Hanzal and Radim Vrbata. Maybe it’s both? Either way Hanzal is now 2 goals off tying his career record for goals in a season, 16, which he set back in the 2010-11 season. He has 27 games left to beat the record if he remains with the Coyotes.
- Can the Coyotes keep the shot count close? - An issue that has persisted all season is that Arizona regularly gets out shot by opposing teams. After winning this category 12 shots to 8 in the first period against the Oilers, the Coyotes went on to be out shot 25 to 13 for the remainder of the game. Suppressing the oppositions’s shots is one thing, but the Coyotes also need to be taking more shots themselves.
Players to Watch
Arizona - Luke Schenn - All eyes have recently been on Christian Dvorak but Luke Schenn has become the little train that could. Flourishing on the first pairing with Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Schenn has taken his game to another level and is starting to add some offensive flair to his sound defensive work. Plus a match up with LA always has the potential to get physical, so look for Schenn when the Kings come Coyote hunting.
LA - Anze Kopitar - Anze Kopitar had been having a mediocre season by his standards but renewed his scoring touch in 2017. However, that offense has dropped back off in the Kings last 3 games. Kopitar will be trying his zombie heart out to get back on the scorer’s sheet as a captain leading by example will go a long way in terms of LA locking up a playoff position.
Brad Richardson has resumed skating but is still on injured reserve after breaking two bones in his leg back in November, while Lawson Crouse is considered questionable after missing the last two games with a lower body injury.
Jordan Nolan is day to day after resuming skating on the 15th of February, while Matt Greene and Jonathan Quick remain on injured reserve for the Kings.
Tonight’s game begins at 8:30 PM Arizona time. You can watch the game on Fox Sports Arizona or listen on AZ Sports 98.7 FM.