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Preview: Kings at Coyotes

Arizona aims for fourth straight win; Los Angeles center Nic Dowd to return

by Jerry Brown / Correspondent

KINGS (24-21-4) at COYOTES (16-26-6)

9 p.m. ET; FS-A, FS-W, NHL.TV


Kings team scope

Los Angeles Kings center Nic Dowd will return after missing three games with a lower-body injury. Center Tyler Toffoli, out since Dec. 20 with a lower-body injury, skated and appears on the verge of making a comeback, coach Darryl Sutter told the Los Angeles Times. The Kings are 2-4-0 in their past six games and resume play after the All-Star break one point behind the St. Louis Blues for the first wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference. The Calgary Flames, in the second wild-card spot, have the same point total as the Blues (53), but St. Louis has three games in hand. The Kings are even in games with the Blues and have three games in hand on the Flames. Goaltender Peter Budaj is expected to start; he made 22 saves in a 3-0 win against the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday to lower his goals-against average to 2.06 and help the Kings end a four-game losing streak. Jeff Carter leads the Kings with 24 goals (second in the NHL) and leads the League with eight game-winning goals, one shy of the Los Angeles record for one season. Defenseman Matt Greene was placed on injured reserve Monday, so the Kings have a roster spot available when Toffoli returns.


Coyotes team scope

The Arizona Coyotes seek their first four-game winning streak of the season after three straight victories to begin their five-game homestand. Goaltender Mike Smith won his past three starts, including his first shutout of the season in a 3-0 win against the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday. Smith needs one shutout to tie Nikolai Khabibulin and Ilya Bryzgalov for the most in franchise history (21). Rookie forward Christian Fischer had a goal in each of the past two games but was sent back to Tucson of the American Hockey League to take part in the AHL All-Star Game. "He's a good up-and-down player, but I don't think he's ready for full-time NHL duty yet," coach Dave Tippett said. "It's part of the growth for every player." Forward Max Domi skated with the scratched players for the first time since breaking his hand seven weeks ago. He may practice Wednesday if he gets the OK to do so from the Arizona medical staff and likely is within two weeks of returning, Tippett said. Defenseman Jakob Chychrun was hit in the mouth with a puck twice in the past week, once in a game and once in practice Monday, but will play. Center Brad Richardson skated on his own Monday for the first time since breaking his tibia and fibula Nov. 17 against Calgary.


Kings projected lineup

Marian Gaborik -- Anze Kopitar -- Dustin Brown

Tanner Pearson -- Jeff Carter -- Kyle Clifford

Trevor Lewis -- Nic Dowd -- Andy Andreoff

Dwight King -- Nick Shore -- Jordan Nolan

Jake Muzzin -- Drew Doughty

Derek Forbort -- Alec Martinez

Brayden McNabb -- Kevin Gravel

Peter Budaj

Jeff Zatkoff

Scratched: Tom Gilbert, Devin Setoguchi

Injured: Tyler Toffoli (lower body) Jonathan Quick (groin), Matt Greene (back/groin)


Coyotes projected lineup

Tobias Rieder -- Martin Hanzal -- Radim Vrbata

Brendan Perlini -- Christian Dvorak -- Shane Doan

Jamie McGinn -- Alexander Burmistrov -- Josh Jooris

Lawson Crouse -- Jordan Martinook -- Ryan White

Oliver Ekman-Larsson -- Luke Schenn

Alex Goligoski -- Michael Stone

Jakob Chychrun -- Connor Murphy

Mike Smith

Louis Domingue

Scratched: Kevin Connauton, Peter Holland

Injured: Max Domi (hand), Brad Richardson (broken leg)

Status report

Jooris replaces Fischer on a line with McGinn and Burmistrov. ... With Dowd returning, Setoguchi is expected to be scratched.


Who's hot

Vrbata has 10 points (two goals, eight assists) in his past eight games. … Rieder has five points (three goals, two assists) in a three-game point streak. … Burmistrov has four points (one goal, three assists) in a three-game point streak. … Hanzal has four points (one goal, three assists) in his past three games. … Doughty has five points (one goal, four assists) in a four-game point streak. 

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