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Kings a win away from clinching playoff spot

by Curtis Zupke

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Anze Kopitar said he wasn't aware that his Los Angeles Kings could clinch a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a win Wednesday against the Phoenix Coyotes. The center was informed by a reporter at the morning skate, and it was welcome news.

"It will be one goal that we've accomplished," Kopitar said. "I think we've been in that third spot in our division forever. It really was, pretty much, the whole season. But it's nice to have fate in your own hands with a win [Wednesday] and put everything away, all the calculations. It's a division game, which is obviously huge. We know them. They know us. So I'm sure they're going to be fired up."

The Kings virtually have locked up third place in the Pacific Division, so their primary motivation the rest of the regular season is to sharpen their game against opponents who have a lot more at stake.

That hasn't gone so well lately. The Kings are 25-2-0 when leading after two periods this season, and the two losses have come in the past two weeks, to Phoenix and the Minnesota Wild, two teams jockeying for wild-card spots.

"They're going to be desperate," Kopitar said. "They're going to throw it all out on the table. We're in a month where we want to prepare ourselves and work on our game to get ready for the playoffs. I don't think there's any better test when a desperate team comes in [and] fights for the playoffs. For us, we've got to be ready for that intensity and that emotion they're going to bring. I'm sure it's going to be a fun game."

The Coyotes, who lost 2-1 in a shootout to the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday, did not hold a morning skate, so their lineup won't be known until game time. Phoenix enters the game with 85 points, the same as the Dallas Stars, but trail Dallas for the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference by virtue of the Coyotes having played one more game.

Here are the projected lineups:


Mikkel Boedker - Antoine Vermette - Shane Doan

Lauri Korpikoski - Martin Hanzal - Radim Vrbata

Rob Klinkhammer - Mike Ribeiro - Kyle Chipchura

Brandon McMillan - Jeff Halpern - Martin Erat

Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Zbynek Michalek

Keith Yandle - Michael Stone

Chris Summers - Derek Morris

Thomas Greiss

Mark Visentin

Scratched: Connor Murphy, David Moss, Brandon Gormley, Paul Bissonnette

Injured: Mike Smith (lower body), David Schlemko (lower body)


Marian Gaborik - Anze Kopitar - Justin Williams

Tanner Pearson - Jeff Carter - Tyler Toffoli

Jordan Nolan - Jarret Stoll - Dustin Brown

Kyle Clifford - Mike Richards - Trevor Lewis

Drew Doughty - Jake Muzzin

Robyn Regehr - Slava Voynov

Willie Mitchell - Alec Martinez

Jonathan Quick

Martin Jones

Scratched: Matt Greene

Injured: Dwight King (undisclosed)

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