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Kings aim to clinch playoff berth vs. Coyotes

by Sean McCullen

COYOTES (36-27-13) at KINGS (44-26-6)


Last 10: Phoenix 5-3-2; Los Angeles 6-4-0

Season series: This is the fifth and final game between the Phoenix Coyotes and Los Angeles Kings. The Coyotes have won the past three, including a 4-3 win at Staples Center on March 17 in the most-recent game.

Big story: Los Angeles would clinch a fifth consecutive berth into the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a win against Phoenix. The Kings, who are in third place in the Pacific Division, hold a nine-point lead on the fourth-place Coyotes. Each team has six games remaining.

Phoenix will look to move back into the second of two Western Conference wild-card spots one night after dropping out of it. Coupled with the Dallas Stars' 5-0 win against the Washington Capitals, the Coyotes' 2-1 shootout loss Tuesday against the Winnipeg Jets left Dallas and Phoenix even at 85 points. The Stars jumped into the final wild-card spot by virtue of having played one fewer game than the Coyotes.

Team Scope:

Coyotes: Knowing it had to win to stay ahead of Dallas in the wild-card race, Phoenix failed to beat a floundering Winnipeg team that had blown a 4-0 lead Monday night against the Anaheim Ducks on the way to a 5-4 overtime loss. The 2-1 shootout loss was the Coyotes' second straight on home ice.

"There's an extra point there you'd certainly like to have, but it wasn't for a lack of trying," coach Dave Tippett said. "They got a couple of bounces, and we didn't. Sometimes as good as you want to be, the game doesn't let you be as good."

Coyotes goalie Thomas Greiss, who will start Wednesday, allowed the deciding goal to the Jets' Andrew Ladd on Winnipeg's second attempt. It was the first shootout goal he surrendered in 10 attempts this season.

Kings: Despite a 3-2 loss against the Minnesota Wild on Monday, Los Angeles tied a team record for wins in a calendar month, going 11-4-0 in March.

With a nine-point lead on Phoenix, Los Angeles is all but assured of a playoff berth. The Kings also know there's very little chance they will catch the Pacific-leading Anaheim Ducks (106 points) or second-place San Jose Sharks (105 points) with six games left on their schedule.

"I guess it's tough in a way," defenseman Drew Doughty said Monday, according to the Los Angeles Times. "But we can't be thinking about that. We have to make sure we are still battling for a spot. The main thing is we want to be playing really good hockey going into the playoffs.

"If we ever slack at any point, even though we know we'll be in that third spot, it's going to make our game go downhill."

Perhaps history will intrigue the Kings down the stretch: They are two wins short of matching the team record of 46, set in 1990-91.

Who's hot: Coyotes left wing Mikkel Boedker has four points (two goals) in his past four games. … Kings defenseman Alec Martinez has a point in four of his past five games and 12 of 15. Right wing Marian Gaborik has a goal and four assists during a four-game point streak.

Injury report: Phoenix goalie Mike Smith (leg) is out. He was on the ice before practice Monday and will be re-evaluated over the weekend. Defenseman David Schlemko (left foot), who has not played since March 6, is day-to-day. … Los Angeles left wing Dwight King (undisclosed), who sat out Monday, is day-to-day.

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