By Dave Vest LOS ANGELES – The Coyotes will try to extend their winning streak to three games and build more momentum for the Stanley Cup Playoffs when they play their next-to-last game of the regular season tonight vs. the Los Angeles Kings at the Staples Center. The puck drops at 7:30 p.m. (Arizona time).
Backup goalie Jason LaBarbera, who played 93 games for the Kings over three seasons, will be in net for Phoenix. It will be LaBarbera's first appearance against the Kings in LA since the Kings traded him to Vancouver in 2008-09.
The Coyotes (49-25-6) are locked into the No. 4 seed for the upcoming Western Conference playoffs. The Kings, on the other hand, are looking to move up from their seventh spot. They will enter the game one point behind sixth-place Nashville and fifth-place Detroit.
"They're still trying to find where they will fit in the standings and they have a lot to play for tonight," Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said. "They play a very disciplined game and a very hard-working game and they are usually a team that doesn't beat themselves. I expect another tight game."
Phoenix and LA have played five games this season, but none since Dec. 26. LA leads the season series three games to two. Both teams, however, added multiple players before the trade deadline.
The big question surrounding the Coyotes the next few days revolves around motivation. With nothing to gain or lose in the standings, will it be challenging for the players to care much about the outcomes of the next two games?
"Our motivation now is to build confidence in our group, and that is as a team and as individuals," Tippett said. "We recognize the spot we're in but we also recognize that LA could be our first-round opponent (in the playoffs), so you want to go out, do things right and play well as a group."
Jonathan Quick is expected to start in goal for the Kings (45-27-7). Quick has posted a 0-3-1 record in his past six starts and two no decisions. He was pulled from Tuesday's game vs. Anaheim after giving up three goals on eight shots in 22:49.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Click here to listen to Tippett's pre-game remarks.
Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle has notched seven points in the past six games, and his plus-17 rating ranks second on the team.
Kings right wing Dustin Brown, the 13th overall pick in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, has notched six points in his past three games.
Coyotes captain Shane Doan will try to extend his goal-scoring streak to two games after ending a 23-game goal-less drought on Wednesday night vs. Nashville. Doan needs two more goals to reach the 20-goal plateau for the 10th consecutive season.
Coyotes center Vernon Fiddler did not accompany the team to Los Angeles after Wednesday's game so he could spend a little extra time with his wife and new daughter, who was born in the Valley a few hours before the game. Fiddler rejoined the team in LA on Thursday and will play tonight.
The Coyotes, who have nothing to gain or lose over the last two games with regards to their playoff positioning, likely will rest a few regulars tonight so they can heal from various "bumps and bruises."
“I had three years here (in LA). I had some good times and I had some tough times. I can't say I have a whole lot of good memories playing here... I'm very happy and grateful to be playing in Phoenix now.”