Kings, Coyotes meet for showdown in the desert
The Kings and Coyotes engaged in a spirited battle last week that could have left some hard feelings going into tonight's rematch. But with both clubs still on the fringe of the Western Conference playoff race, the two points up for grabs are what is most important.
Phoenix aims to extend its eight-game point streak while Los Angeles looks to score for the first time in three contests in the final regular-season meeting between these two Pacific Division residents.
The Coyotes visited the Kings last Thursday and gutted out a 1-0 victory thanks to Radim Vrbata's goal and 28 saves by goaltender Mike Smith. It was only Phoenix's second victory in its past eight versus Los Angeles and it has lost four of the past six at home in this series.
Last week's meeting featured three fights in the first period, including one between captains when Phoenix's Shane Doan took on Dustin Brown of Los Angeles. Doan decided to drop the gloves after Brown's hard hit on teammate Rostislav Klesla that knocked the defenseman out of the game with an upper- body issue.
Frustration should still be present for the Kings after they lost their second straight 1-0 decision on Saturday against the visiting Flames. Miikka Kiprusoff made 28 saves to keep Los Angeles off the board.
The Kings, who rank last in the NHL with 120 goals, were shut out for the eighth time this season. Five of those have been 1-0 decisions.
"It's been the same thing for this team all year: finding ways to score goals," Kings forward Dustin Brown said. "We've been shut out twice in back- to-back 1-0 games at home against teams that are two points behind us in both cases. I don't want to say we didn't work hard, we did, but we've got to find ways to score goals."
Jonathan Quick stopped 17-of-18 shots faced and has seen the Kings scored only 29 goals in his 26 losses on the season. He is just 24-16-10 on the season despite a 1.87 goals-against average and .934 save percentage.
Los Angeles now sits in a tie with Calgary for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West with 65 points. Phoenix is two ahead with 67 and sits at the seventh seed. The Coyotes also trail the first-place Sharks by a pair of points in the Pacific Division.
The Coyotes have stormed back into the playoff picture thanks to a season-high 7-0-1 surge. That run included back-to-back shutouts by Smith, who had a career-best shutout streak of 171 minutes and 26 seconds snapped during Saturday's 2-1 overtime win versus the Stars.
Smith ended with 30 saves to extend his personal-best win streak to seven straight contests. He hasn't lost since Jan. 31.
Mikkel Boedker scored in regulation and Vrbata had the winner 1:15 into overtime. The winger took a pass from Ray Whitney out front after the latter had stolen the puck behind the net.
"I was running out of room there and I wanted to make sure I had a lane to shoot and I was able to put it in," Vrbata said of his career-high 28th goal of the season. Ten of those have been game-winners, another personal best.
The Coyotes played without Klesla, Taylor Pyatt (upper body) and Derek Morris (personal) while also losing Kyle Chipchura (wrist) and Martin Hanzal (lower body) to injury versus Dallas. While Morris has left the team due to an illness in his family, the other four skaters are day-to-day. Pyatt hasn't played since Feb. 13 but skated on Monday.