Pair of feel-good teams collide in Phoenix
Saturday, 10.24.2009 / 6:00 PM
KINGS (6-4-0) at COYOTES (6-2-0)
Season Series: This is the second of six meetings between L.A. and Phoenix this season. The Coyotes won the season-opener for both teams, 6-3 in L.A. on Oct. 3, thanks to a pair of goals from Radim Vrbata, including the game-winner.
Big Story: Expectations for each team grow by the day, or rather by the win, which makes this one of the more intriguing matchups of a full Saturday slate. The Kings salvaged six of 12 possible points on their recent six-game road trip and then came home Thursday night to beat Dallas, 5-4 in overtime, helped by Anze Kopitar's first career hat trick. The Coyotes have won four in a row, including two in OT and one in a shootout, to rise to the top of the Pacific Division.
Kings: Even with the controversy surrounding the recent benching of Alexander Frolov, there are good vibes around this team and a sincere belief that they are a serious contender. However, they are having some minor issues with their goaltending that must be solved. Jonathan Quick, recently tabbed the clear-cut No. 1 by coach Terry Murray, gave up four goals on 21 shots to Dallas on Thursday. He's given up 12 goals in his last four games. With a back-to-back this weekend, we could see both Quick and Erik Ersberg.
Coyotes: No goaltending worries here. Ilya Bryzgalov has been the one of, if not the NHL's best netminder so far this season. Among No. 1 goalies entering Friday's action, he was first in goals-against average (1.26), save percentage (.946) and shutouts (2). His six wins have him tied for second with four others. And it's not as if Bryzgalov is beating slouches either. He's allowed a combined eight goals in wins over L.A., Pittsburgh, San Jose, St. Louis, Boston and Detroit. He gave up only one goal in a loss to Columbus.
Who's Hot: Kopitar is sizzling in Hollywood with six points in the last three games to give him 16 for the season, putting him high up on the NHL leaderboard. Ryan Smyth has continued his torrid start with five more points in the last three games to give him 14 for the season. Dustin Brown has six points in the last four games. … There's arguably nobody in the NHL playing his position better than Bryzgalov right now. Shane Doan reversed his cold start by picking up five points in the last three games, including three assists in the win over Boston last week. Adrian Aucoin has four points in the last three games, including a goal and an assist in Thursday's win over Detroit. Matthew Lombardi has a point in each of the last three games.
Injury Report: For the Kings, forward Justin Williams missed Thursday's game with an upper-body injury he suffered in the morning skate. His status for tonight is questionable. Alec Martinez (lower body injury) has missed nine games. The Coyotes are healthy.
Stat Pack: Kopitar and Smyth have recorded at least one point in nine of the Kings' 10 games this season. … The last time the Coyotes won six of their first eight games was 2000-01. The franchise, dating back to its days in Winnipeg, has done it only one other time (1982-83). … Through 10 games last season the Kings were 3-6-1. … Frolov had two assists Thursday night after being scratched by coach Terry Murray in the game before.
Puck Drop: "We've got a long way to go," Doan said. "It's important for us to have a good start to give the fans something to talk about."
-- Dan Rosen, NHL.com