By Dave Vest
GLENDALE – The Coyotes, who rank fourth in the Western Conference standings with 48 points, will put an eight-game winning streak at home on the line Saturday night when they host the Los Angeles Kings at Jobing.com Arena. The puck drops at 7 p.m. (Arizona time).
Phoenix is on a roll having won 10 of its past 13 games (10-2-1).
"We're almost to the halfway point of the season now and we've gone from (being) a team that we're not sure if we could win to now we expect to win," Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said. "... You can't expect to win if you're not willing to put the work in and our guys enjoy putting the work in. That's been a big key for us."
Ilya Bryzgalov likely will start in goal for Phoenix (23-13-2). Bryzgalov posted his NHL-best fifth shutout on Wednesday night vs. Anaheim.
The Coyotes are 1-2-1 vs. LA this season and 0-2-0 at home.
"They're a good team," Tippett said. "They've gotten us a couple times in here so we're going to have to come in and play a very competitive game. They play a strong team game, (and) their defense is a pretty physical defense; you've got to be willing to work hard to get to the net."
The Kings (22-12-3) will enter the game as a well-rested team. LA last played on Dec. 17. Head Coach Terry Murray isn't a big fan of his club's quirky eight-day holiday break.
"I had a very hard time with the schedule when I first saw it, even through the middle of November," Murray told the team's official Website. "I was dealing, not very well, with this break. I wanted to keep playing. It's very unusual for me to see this kind of a break, especially in an Olympic year, where you're going to have another two weeks off later on."
On the plus side for LA, four injured players - Jack Johnson, Brandon Segal, Wayne Simmonds and Ryan Smyth - are expected to return to the lineup.
Coyotes center Matthew Lombardi has notched a goal and four assists in his past three games, and now leads the team with 17 assists.
Kings goalie Jonathan Quick has played well in December. In nine starts, Quick has posted a 6-1-2 record and a 2.44 goals-against average.
The Coyotes have won their past eight home games. It's their longest victory streak ever at Jobing.com Arena and their longest home winning streak since they won eight in a row from Feb. 12 to March 24, 2002 at the former America West Arena in downtown Phoenix. The franchise record for consecutive home wins is nine, set from Dec. 27, 1992 to Jan. 23, 1993 when the team was known as the Winnipeg Jets.
The Coyotes will officially honor Captain Shane Doan for playing in his 1,000th NHL game on Dec. 17 with a pre-game ceremony.
Coyotes center Vernon Fiddler still IS listed as day-to-day because of a lower-body injury, and likely will miss tonight's game.
"We really want to focus on going out there and working hard, and giving those second and third efforts... We're confident the rest will take care of itself."