KINGS (30-16-3) at COYOTES (24-20-5)
TV: FS-W, FS-A, NHL.TV
GLENDALE Ariz. -- Thanks to the strong play of rookie goalie Louis Domingue, the Arizona Coyotes aren't desperate to get veteran Mike Smith healthy and between the pipes.
Turns out, that's a good thing.
Smith's recovery from abdominal surgery is progressing slowly and he could be a month or more away from returning as the Coyotes begin the stretch run against the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday.
Smith had surgery Dec. 14 with a prognosis of 8-10 weeks before returning. He hasn't suffered any setbacks, but after spending four days on the ice during the All-Star break, there weren't a lot of forward steps. The chances of him getting back on the ice in February are dimming.
"We thought the four days would push things closer, but it's an injury where you have a hard time pushing ahead," said Arizona coach Dave Tippett, who will coach his 1,000th NHL game Tuesday. "We've always said it would be mid-February at the least before he would get there. He's just going to have to keep working with it until it starts to feel right.
"At some point he'll get to where he can practice with us, but he'll still be a ways away from playing games."
Domingue has eased the urgency with his play. He was named the NHL's rookie of the month in recognition for his 6-3-2 record, 2.20 goals-against average and .925 save percentage during 11 games in January. He has two shutouts in 17 games overall and has given the Coyotes a chance to stay in the playoff race.
Domingue will get plenty of work. The Coyotes come out of the break with three tough games in four nights against the Kings, Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks. Arizona was the only team without a player at the All-Star Game, so the entire roster enjoyed a five-day break from the ice.
"We talked yesterday as a team about how these final 33 games are going to go quick," Tippett said. "It will be hard with tough challenges ahead. We'll get into it right away."
Forward Kyle Clifford has rejoined the Kings after a two-game conditioning stint with Ontario of the American Hockey League. Clifford, who is recovering from an upper-body injury, had six shots on goal and one minor penalty in the two games. He was skating with the extras Tuesday.
The Coyotes are 3-0-1 in four games against the Kings this season including a 3-2 home win Jan. 23. The Coyotes are 11-2-2 against the Pacific Division this season and have given the Kings three of their 16 regulation losses.
Los Angeles lost three of four games before the break and begins the stretch run with eight of the first nine games on the road, where the Kings are 15-7-2. Jonathan Quick, who helped the Pacific Division team to victory in the All-Star Game, will get the start in goal.
Here are the projected lineups:
Milan Lucic - Anze Kopitar - Marian Gaborik
Dwight King - Jeff Carter - Tyler Toffoli
Dustin Brown - Vincent Lecavalier - Trevor Lewis
Tanner Pearson - Nick Shore - Jordan Nolan
Jake Muzzin - Drew Doughty
Alec Martinez - Luke Schenn
Brayden McNabb - Jamie McBain
Injured: Matt Greene (shoulder), Kyle Clifford (upper body)
Scratched: Andy Andreoff, Christian Ehrhoff
Tobias Rieder - Antoine Vermette - Mikkel Boedker
Max Domi - Martin Hanzal - Anthony Duclair
Jordan Martinook - Brad Richardson - Shane Doan
Kyle Chipchura - Boyd Gordon - Viktor Tikhonov
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Connor Murphy
Jarred Tinordi - Zbynek Michalek
Kevin Connauton - Michael Stone
Injured: Mike Smith (abdominal surgery), Joe Vitale (fractured orbital bone)
Scratched: Klas Dahlbeck, Nicklas Grossmann
Status report: Newcomers Tinordi and Connauton skated ahead of Dahlbeck and Grossmann on defense. With eight healthy players on the blue line, that group figures to be mixed and matched a lot.
Who's hot: Ekman-Larsson has four goals and five points in four games against the Kings. … Richardson had two goals and three points in the past four games. … Doan has 12 goals and 21 points in 21 home games. … Toffoli is tied for first in the NHL in plus/minus (plus-26).