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Kings-Coyotes Preview @NHL
Kings-Coyotes Preview

GAME: Los Angeles Kings (9-4-0) at Phoenix Coyotes (5-8-1).

TIME: Thursday, 9 p.m. EST.

Lubomir Visnovsky will try to build on his first career hat trick as the Los Angeles Kings visit Wayne Gretzky's struggling Phoenix Coyotes.

The league implemented new rules this season designed to create more scoring opportunities, allowing defensemen like Visnovsky to contribute on offense. He had three goals to lead the Kings in a 6-3 win over Dallas on Wednesday, and leads all NHL defensemen with 18 points (six goals, 12 assists).

"It's more of an open game," said Visnovsky, who had 27 career goals in his four previous years with the Kings. "It's better for offensive (defensemen). I'm getting more chances."

Visnovsky had six shots on goal Wednesday, and while he contended that he was "lucky" to score three times, his teammates said there's also a lot of skill involved.

"He's in the zone where he's really feeling it," center Craig Conroy said. "He shoots it and it goes in the net. He could probably close his eyes and score. It's pretty to watch."

Rookie Jason LaBarbera made 29 saves to improve to 7-1-0 this season and Sean Avery, Jeff Cowan and Pavol Demitra also scored for the Kings, who have won six of their last eight games.

Phoenix has lost four of its last six, including a 3-2 defeat to Anaheim on Sunday.

Geoff Sanderson scored on the power play and Mike LeClerc added a goal for the last-place Coyotes, who fell to 0-5-0 against Pacific Division opponents this season.

That includes a 3-2 loss to the Kings on Oct. 6 in Los Angeles where Gretzky spent eight seasons of his Hall of Fame career. He led the Kings to the Stanley Cup finals in 1993 and surpassed Gordie Howe as hockey's all-time leading goal scorer at the old Forum in Inglewood.

Gretzky, though, is showing some frustration after his first month at the helm.

The Coyotes have scored at least once on the power play in five straight games since going 0-for-8 in a 3-2 loss to Vancouver on Oct. 20. However, they were unable to capitalize with the man advantage Sunday in the final minutes - even with an extra attacker on the ice.

"It's disheartening," said Gretzky, who is also a managing partner with the franchise. "It's probably our fifth game with a one-goal differential where we got a power play in the last three minutes and didn't capitalize. I just think it's a combination of a lack of belief and a lack of effort.

"If the personnel who get the opportunity to have those chances to tie the game can't do it, then we'll get different personnel to play in those situations. We just can't continuously go with the same five or six forwards and not produce. So we'll address it and put different people in there."

STANDINGS (through Nov. 2): Kings - 18 points, 1st place, Pacific Division. Coyotes - 11 points, 5th place, 7 PB, Pacific Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Kings - Demitra, 8 goals; Visnovsky, 12 assists and 18 points; Avery, 34 PIM. Coyotes - Leclerc, 5 goals; Paul Mara, 8 assists and 10 points; Tyson Nash, 40 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Nov. 2): Kings - Power play: 16.8 percent (13 for 77), 17th in NHL (tied). Penalty killing: 84.5 percent (71 for 84), 8th. Coyotes - Power play: 18.2 percent (17 for 93), 15th. Penalty killing: 77.9 percent (60 for 77), 24th

GOALTENDERS: Kings - LaBarbera (7-1-0, 0 SO, 1.88 GAA); Mathieu Garon (2-3-0, 0, 3.43). Coyotes - Curtis Joseph (4-4-0, 1, 2.53); David Leneveu (1-4-1, 0, 3.33).

SEASON SERIES: Kings, 1-0.

LAST MEETING: Oct. 6; Kings, 3-2. At Los Angeles, Alexander Frolov scored the go-ahead goal on a power play to help Andy Murray become the Kings' all-time winningest coach with his 179th victory.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Kings - 3-1-0 on the road; Coyotes - 3-2-1 at home.

Associated Press
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