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Coyotes at Kings Preview

by Dave Vest / Arizona Coyotes
GLENDALE – The Coyotes, looking to end a three-season absence from the Stanley Cup Playoffs, will open the 2015-16 campaign against the Los Angeles Kings on Friday night at Staples Center.

It will mark the first time Arizona has started a new season on the road since the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season when it lost to Dallas, 4-3.  The Coyotes last won a road opener five years ago vs. Boston when they were the designated road team in Prague, Czech Republic.

Arizona will field a dramatically retooled roster in 2015-16; only nine players in Friday’s lineup were in the lineup just a year ago when the Coyotes began the season at home vs. Winnipeg.

Head Coach Dave Tippett is eager to see how team chemistry will develop on the ice in meaningful games.

“You have your best chemistry when you feel good about what you’re doing and people are having success,” Tippett said. “You can have lots of friendships and lots of good guys, but chemistry comes on earning your stake a little bit and so that’s a little incomplete. (They’re) all nice guys. Chemistry is real good. We’ve bonded well. But we have to bond on the ice.”

Arizona earned just 56 points last season and spent the past six months figuring out how to improve. The vibe in the dressing room is that if the team plays as a group within Tippett’s system, the results will be much better.

“We’re all excited to get it going,” defenseman Zbynek Michalek said after Thursday’s final practice of the preseason. “Everybody wants to put last season behind us and not talk about it anymore… It’s been an exciting training camp and we all cannot wait to get into real games. We’ve had a good week of practice and everybody should be ready. It’s a big challenge for us.”

Mike Smith will start in goal for the Coyotes, who also opened the 2009-10 season at Staples Center and won, 6-3, in Tippett’s first game as head coach.

Captain Shane Doan will play in his 1,395th NHL game seeking two points to reach 900 for his career.

Like Michalek, Doan senses a let’s-get-this-season-started mentality around the team.

“We have a plan and everyone has an idea of what you’re supposed to do and what you’re going to do, so going into the first game everybody is really excited,” Doan said. “(The Kings) are going to be a little grumpy so we have to make sure we’re good.”

Los Angeles lost its home opener to San Jose, 5-1, on Wednesday night in front of a sellout crowd. Another packed house is expected on Friday.

“We’re worried about what we’re doing and we want to make sure our team plays well,” Tippett said when asked about playing an angry opponent. “…You always recognize your opponent and the state of mind that they’re in, but for us it’s all about what we’re doing.”

Scoring goals will be tops on Arizona’s to-do list. The Coyotes did not score in their final three preseason games and netted just four in six exhibition games.

Rookie Max Domi, whom Arizona snatched with the 12th overall pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, will make his NHL debut after an impressive junior career.

“He’s waited a long time for it and he’s earned the right to be here,” Tippett said. “It will be very exciting for him. He’s a very mature kid. He’ll get in and I expect him to play very well.”

Other newcomers in Arizona’s lineup on Friday will include center Brad Richardson, wingers Anthony Duclair and Steve Downie, and defenseman Nicklas Grossmann. Backup goalie Anders Lindback also is new to Arizona.

The Kings looked unprepared for their season opener vs. San Jose.

“Top to bottom, we didn't execute,” forward Anze Kopitar told reporters. “We were just sloppy. There's a lot of things we could pinpoint tonight.”

The Coyotes plan to be ready for an improved Kings team on Friday.

“We expect the same thing as always from them,” Michalek said. “They’re a big, physical team and they play fast and forecheck hard. I don’t think it’s going to be any different this time around.”

At Staples Center, Los Angeles
7:30 p.m. (AZ time)

TV: FOX Sports Arizona - Pre-game at 7 p.m. \ Puck drops at 7:30 p.m.
RADIO: ESPN Phoenix 620 AM - Pre-game at 7 p.m. \ Puck drops at 7:30 p.m.

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