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Kings-Coyotes Preview @NHLdotcom
Kings-Coyotes Preview

GAME: Los Angeles Kings (24-14-1) at Phoenix Coyotes (19-17-2).

TIME: Thursday, 9 p.m. EST.

The red-hot Los Angeles Kings look to continue their potent offense when they visit Wayne Gretzky and the Phoenix Coyotes.

Pavol Demitra scored twice as the Kings won for the sixth time in seven games, 5-3 over the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday. Michael Cammalleri and Lubomir Visnovsky added goals for Los Angeles, which is averaging four goals a game in those seven contests.

The Kings, who entered Wednesday tied for fifth in the league with 128 goals, had scored just two per game in their previous eight, losing six.

Demitra has been leading the way, with six goals and 13 points in his last nine games. He scored his team-leading 19th and 20 goals and also had an assist in Wednesday's win.

"Pavol was quietly efficient," Kings coach Andy Murray said. "He had a quiet night with some points."

Cammalleri and Visnovsky also continued their strong play in the opener of a three-game road trip. Cammalleri scored for the seventh time in nine games, while Visnovsky has at least one assist in nine straight contests, totaling 11 in that span.

Mathieu Garon stopped 32 shots for his 16th win as Los Angeles moved past Dallas into sole possession of first place in the Pacific Division.

The Coyotes welcomed the return of coach Gretzky on Wednesday with a thrilling comeback in a 5-4 victory over the San Jose Sharks.

Derek Morris' goal during a two-man advantage ignited a four-goal rally early in the third period. Captain Shane Doan, Oleg Saprykin and Mike Johnson also scored during the 2:58 stretch, turning a one-goal deficit into a 5-2 lead in the Coyotes' third victory in four games.

Gretzky, the NHL's career scoring leader, returned to the bench after a 10-day leave of absence to be with his mother, who died of lung cancer on Dec. 19.

Brian Boucher stopped 30 shots in his third start this season for Phoenix. Slumping Curtis Joseph was benched after being pulled in two of his last three starts, allowing nine goals on 38 shots in that span.

STANDINGS (through Dec. 28): Kings - 49 points, 1st place, Pacific Division. Coyotes - 40 points, 3rd place, 9 PB, Pacific Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Kings - Demitra, 20 goals and 49 points; Demitra and Visnovsky, 29 assists; Sean Avery, 131 PIM. Coyotes - Mike Comrie, 13 goals; Ladislav Nagy, 28 assists and 40 points; Sean O'Donnell, 73 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Dec. 28): Kings - Power play: 15 percent (40 for 266), 23rd in NHL. Penalty killing: 81.6 percent (200 for 245), 19th. Coyotes - Power play: 18.3 percent (46 for 251), tied for 12th. Penalty killing: 81.4 percent (192 for 236), 20th.

GOALTENDERS: Kings - Garon (16-8-0, 0 SO, 2.73 GAA); Jason LaBarbera (8-6-1, 2.90). Coyotes - Joseph (15-10-0, 2, 2.47); Boucher (2-2-0, 3.14).

SEASON SERIES: Kings, 2-1.

LAST MEETING: Dec. 17; Kings, 4-1. At Los Angeles, Craig Conroy ended a 13-game goal drought with a power-play goal and set up set up two other scores.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Kings - 11-8-1 on the road; Coyotes - 10-7-1 at home.

Associated Press
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