Kings search for offense in the desert
Monday, 02.20.2012 / 5:54 PMKINGS (27-21-11) at COYOTES (29-21-9)
: FS-W (HD), FS-A (HD)
Last 10: Los Angeles 4-5-1; Phoenix 8-1-1.
: This is the sixth and final regular-season meeting between these Pacific Division clubs. The Kings hold the advantage with a 3-1-1 record.
: The Kings and Coyotes are battling to solidify their positions towards the bottom half of the Western Conference playoff standings, with Phoenix currently sitting in seventh place with 67 points as of Monday. Los Angeles can make a big push towards the postseason with a regulation win over the 'Yotes as they are only two points behind Tuesday's opponent. But Phoenix has been really tough to beat throughout Feburary with a 7-0-1 record this month.
: Los Angeles has hit a mini funk recently with just one win in its last five games, but will need to snap out of it quickly if it hopes to make its fourth straight appearance in the playoffs come season's end. The Kings will look to avenge back-to-back 1-0 losses to Calgary and Phoenix last week as they return to Staples Center for a quick two-game homestand.
While captain Dustin Brown
and company turned in a valiant effort at home against the Flames on Saturday, they had the unfortuante luck of running into one of the NHL's hottest current goalies as Miikka Kiprusoff made 28 saves to place the Kings on the wrong side of the shutout decision. The defeat sent the Kings into a tie for eighth place with Calgary, but the Flames would actually qualify for the playoffs if the season ended today since L.A. has one less win.
"Tonight we had some really good chances. It's definitely frustrating, and it's been frustrating all year," Brown said after the game. "I don't want to say we didn't work hard - we did."
: With only one shootout loss throughout the month of February, Phoenix appears to have peaked at precisely the right time. But the fact that the Coyotes gained 17 points out of a possible 20 over their last 10 games has done little to separate them from the pack of teams still battling for the final playoff spots in the West.
All the 'Yotes can do is continue plugging away and gaining points against fellow competitors in the standings. Satuday's 2-1 win over the 10th-place Dallas Stars was exactly the type of game Phoenix will need to play as it enters the crucial part of the season. While the Coyotes didn't seem as energetic as they did in Thursday's shutout win over the Kings, they still managed to grab two all-important points from Dallas. Goalie Mike Smith
made 30 saves, but had his career-best shutout streak was snapped at 171 minutes, 26 seconds.
"It’s huge points for us against a team that’s below us in the standings, but we’ve got to find a way to make our game better than it was tonight," head coach Dave Tippett told NHL.com following the game.
: Smith is in the midst of a seven-game winning streak with two shutouts and a 1.00 goals-against average over that span. ... Despite the Kings' recent struggles, it hasn't been much of their starting goalie's fault. Jonathan Quick
is just 2-3-1 over his last six starts, but maintains a respectable 1.50 GAA over that stretch.
: For the Coyotes, Rostislav Klesla
(upper body) and Taylor Pyatt
(upper body) are day-to-day. Defenseman Derek Morris
missed his third straight game with the flu, while David Schlemko
(foot) is nearing a return. ... Kings forward Jarret Stoll
(lower body) remains on IR but may be activated in time for Tuesday's game. Simon Gagne
is still sidelined with a concussion.
: The Kings' goals-against average and goals per-game average are identical at 2.03. That number places them last in the League in goals per game, but their GAA ranks third in the NHL
: While Brown has voiced frustration regarding the Kings' recent play, he knows that they ultimately control their own fate moving forward.
"We've been in this situation the last two years, so it's no different now," Brown said about being on the outside looking in enteringthe final stretch of the season. "The last couple years, we've been battling for a playoff spot. As frustrating as these last two games have been, offensively, we've got to refocus."