Wins against teams such as the Los Angeles Kings have helped the Phoenix Coyotes stay in the postseason race, but losses to teams ahead of them in the standings are keeping them from moving into playoff position.
After three straight defeats to teams in playoff contention in the Western Conference, the Coyotes look to continue their dominance of the Kings when the teams meet Thursday night.
Phoenix (36-33-5) has lost two games to 10th-place Edmonton and one to sixth-place Vancouver over the past week. The Coyotes, in 12th place in the West, are seven points behind three teams tied with 84 in the race for the conference's last three postseason spots.
After two straight road games, Phoenix is beginning a three-game homestand. The Coyotes are 5-7-1 at Jobing.com Arena since the start of February.
"It's looking dismal for the playoffs, but we have to leave this behind us up here and get back to Phoenix," Coyotes center Daniel Winnik said after Tuesday's 8-4 loss in Edmonton. "I don't think it's a lack of effort or intensity on anyone's behalf or a lack of caring. We're just having mental letdowns at the wrong times."
Phoenix has been able to stay in the race thanks partly to its outstanding play against the two worst teams in the West.
The Coyotes are 6-0-0 against league-worst Los Angeles (28-40-6) this season, winning each of those games in regulation. They also are 4-0-0 against St. Louis, which is second-worst in the West with 71 points.
Phoenix's dominance at home versus Los Angeles extends to last season, having won six straight meetings with the Kings at Jobing.com Arena since a 4-0 loss on Oct. 19, 2006. The Coyotes are 17-2-1 with two ties at home against the Kings since the start of 2000.
|Ed Jovanovski (55), Steven Reinprecht (28), Radim Vrbata, and the Phoenix Coyotes are undefeated in six games against the Los Angeles Kings so far this season. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)|
Taking advantage of another matchup with Los Angeles is crucial for a Phoenix team that has eight games remaining. The Coyotes have lost five of their last seven.
A bright spot for Phoenix in Tuesday's loss was a one-goal, two-assist performance from Shane Doan, giving him 70 points through 74 games to surpass his previous career high of 68 points set in 2003-04.
The veteran winger has four goals and nine points in six games against the Kings this season, helping the Coyotes score four times in each of the last five meetings.
Los Angeles, meanwhile, has scored two goals or less in eight of its last nine games. The Kings have converted 9.5 percent (4-for-42) of their power-play opportunities in their last 11 games, going 2-6-3 in that span, and went 0-for-4 in a 2-1 loss to San Jose on Tuesday night.
Los Angeles' most productive players have stalled in recent games.
Anze Kopitar, who leads the team with 69 points (29 goals, 40 assists), has been held off the scoresheet in three straight games. Alexander Frolov hasn't tallied a point in four of his last five games, but is second on the team with 61 points (23 goals, 38 assists).
The Kings are beginning a three-game stretch on the road, where they are 1-6-1 after winning eight of their previous 12.