Tonight, the Los Angeles Kings will face off against a very hungry Phoenix Coyotes squad. L.A. will be looking to get back to their winning ways after dropping two in a row. Before the recent skid, the Kings were the hottest team in the NHL with eight wins in a row. Phoenix has won three of their last four outings and is tied for the final wild card playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Coyotes lead the season series against the Kings 2-1.
With L.A., the storylines remain consistent every night. Solid defense is the key, and a decent offensive output that takes the pressure off of their goaltender will be the recipe for victory. With Jonathan Quick making his possible return after a stomach bug kept him out of play, the Kings need to have their strongest defense to keep it easy on the goaltender. With less activity in the defensive zone and by pressuring the Coyotes, L.A.’s opportunities will come.
For Phoenix, they have everything to play for with only a couple of weeks left to control their destiny. They are tied for the last wild card spot in the west, but if the season were to end today, they would be out on tiebreakers. They will likely have perennial starter Mike Smith in net, who is posting a strong 2.2 GAA his last five. Smith will need to be on top of his game with his squad’s offense only managing to squeak by with a 2.6 goals for average in that same five-game span.
Phoenix is the perfect opponent to give L.A.’s power play a much-needed shot in the arm. Phoenix ranks 27th in the league in penalty kills, only defending 79.2 percent of the time. L.A. is 25th in successful power play, and tonight would be a good night to boost the special team’s confidence with some offensive production.
If L.A. can frustrate Phoenix early, maintain a solid defense, and capitalize on special teams, they will find themselves back in the winning column. For Phoenix, they need to try and build an early lead. It is known all over the league that the Kings are stingy on defense, but lowly on offense. If Phoenix puts L.A. in a two-goal hole, it could prove tough for the Kings to rebound.