The Los Angeles Kings are finally home after a mediocre six-game road trip where they went 2-3-1. They are riding a whopping one game win streak after key performances from newly added rookies, Dwight King and Jordan Nolan after Jarret Stoll was placed on IR. Tonight, the Phoenix Coyotes bring their 8th seed play in to the Stape to possibly steal a much-needed two points from our hometown faithful. The Kings, 7th in the West, have taken three of four previous meetings with the desert dogs. Their last tilt was January 5th in a 1-0 LA Kings overtime victory. Let’s hope that isn’t the case tonight.
The Coyotes are running a streak of not being beaten in regulation in six games (5-0-1). A lot is contributed to a stellar performance by goalie Mike Smith. Smith has a record of 1-1-1 against the Kings this season with 1.68 GAA in those three games. He has surrendered more than one goal in one occasion within their six-game streak. Against the Kings, he has stopped 84 of 89 shots. However, he seems to bare a weakness when the Coyotes take penalties. He has an .885 save percentage with at least a man short, but chances are limited as the Coyotes average only 8 penalty minutes in a game; the fewest in the NHL.
For the Kings, their ability to grind was evident in the last game against Dallas. Rookies this season have found ways to tickle the twine for their firsts of the season against the Stars. The line of Nolan-Richards-King proved to be the best line of offense a few days ago and I hope that their youthful enthusiasm proves contagious in the locker room. I assume Jonathan Quick will get the nod as starter. This season he has a .948 save percentage and 1.47 GAA against his division rival, Coyotes.
On the scoreboard… Against the Kings, Radim Vrbata this season is a plus 1 with 3 points (2G-1A) in four games. He leads the Coyotes in goals with 26 and nine points (4G-5A) in his last eight games. Of course the Kings need to shut him down.
For the Kings it’s Justin Williams. Although an empty netter last game padded his stats, he has collected 11 points (4G-7A) in nine games. Anze Kopitar has 5 points and is a plus 1 this season against the ‘Yotes.
Two crucial points are at stake for both teams. The players on the Kings roster should be playing like no one is safe. Sometimes desperation means an increase in creativity. There is no excuse not to play a full 60 minutes after 4 days between games.
I predict a 3-2 LA Kings regulation win.