The Coyotes and Kings get together again just five days after Mike Smith posted a 1-0 shutout in Los Angeles that will be more remembered for the fisticuffs than the finesse.
After Kings captain Dustin Brown leveled Phoenix defenseman Rusty Klesla with a high hit in the first period, Phoenix captain Shane Doan was right there to stick up for his teammate and instigate a fight. That was the first of four brawls in the game -- not a normal occurrence for a Phoenix team that had only 12 fighting majors all season. Will this be Round 2?
The Kings have to make sure they keep their eyes on the ball. While their offense continues to slump, the Coyotes are 7-0-1 in their last eight games and have moved from 12th place past Los Angeles and into seventh in the Western Conference, two points ahead of the Kings and Flames. Phoenix will visit Calgary on Thursday.
The Coyotes, however, will enter this game shorthanded. On defense, Klesla is still out and Derek Morris has been given a leave of absence to deal with a family issue. David Schlemko is on track to return early from a foot surgery, but is still a week away. That leaves Chris Summers (15 NHL games) and Michael Stone, who made his debut in Saturday's 2-1 overtime win over Dallas, as the third defense pair again tonight.
Up front the Coyotes are hoping to have both forward Taylor Pyatt (upper body) and center Martin Hanzal (lower body) available tonight. Pyatt is expected to play, while Hanzal is a game-time decision. Hanzal left Saturday's game with the injury and if he doesn't play, the absence will have a domino effect throughout the top three lines.
One player Phoenix won't have is center Kyle Chipchura, who suffered a wrist injury against the Kings and will miss at least a week. Chipchura has been an integral part of Phoenix's fourth line.
The good news is Smith is healthy. The Coyotes goalie has won seven straight starts with a 0.99 goals-against average, including the 28-save shutout in Los Angeles. Smith has allowed one goal in his last two games against the Kings -- and it was a controversial overtime goal with three different Kings players standing in the crease that was the difference in another 1-0 game.
Here's how tonight's lineups could look:
Ray Whitney - Martin Hanzal - Radim Vrbata
Lauri Korpikoski - Boyd Gordon - Shane Doan
Raffi Torres - Daymond Langkow - Mikkel Boedker
Paul Bissonnette - Kyle Chipchura - Gilbert Brule
Keith Yandle - Adrian Aucoin
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Michal Rozsival
Michael Stone - Chris Summers
The Kings should have Jarrett Stoll, activated off injured reserve today, back in the lineup and coach Darryl Sutter is talking about mixing up his lines that continue to struggle offensively. This is what the Kings looked like in the last game, but changes are coming.
Dustin Brown - Anze Kopitar - Justin Williams
Dwight King - Mike Richards - Jordan Nolan
Kyle Clifford - Andrei Loktionov - Trevor Lewis
Dustin Penner - Colin Fraser - Brad Richardson
Rob Scuderi - Drew Doughty
Willie Mitchell - Jack Johnson
Davis Drewiske - Matt Greene