By Dave Vest
LOS ANGELES --
The Coyotes will attempt to clinch a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs tonight when they play the Los Angeles Kings at the Staples Center. The puck drops at 7:30 p.m. (Arizona time).
Phoenix (42-25-12) and Los Angeles (45-28-6) both have 96 points in the Western Conference standings, and the winner of this game will secure a spot in the postseason.
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to see the conference standings.
Tonight’s game will be the first for the Coyotes since they lost a 4-3 shootout to Colorado on Friday night in Glendale. Head Coach Dave Tippett said after four days without playing a game, his players are ready to get back to competing.
“The focus out there was excellent,” Tippett said after Tuesday’s practice. “To me that shows a sign that the players are getting anxious and recognize the importance of the game and are acting accordingly.”
Because San Jose clinched the Pacific Division title on Monday, the Coyotes know the highest seed they can earn now is No. 4, which is the only seed left that provides home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
“We want to qualify,” Tippett said. “If you can get home ice that’s a bonus. This game is a big game in that direction.”
Tonight's showdown is the sixth of six between these division rivals this season. Phoenix won the first three, but has dropped two straight including a 1-0 loss on March 3.
will start in goal for the Coyotes. Bryzgalov is 7-2-1 with a 1.68 goals-against average and two shutouts in his last 10 games. He will enter the game with 129 victories as a member of the Coyotes, tied for the franchise lead with Bob Essensa.
Defenseman Ed Jovanovski
, who hasn’t played since suffering orbital bone fractures in a game played Feb. 17, is expected to be activated from the injured reserve list and play tonight.
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to watch Tippett talk about Jovanovski's return.
Meanwhile, forwards Lauri Korpikoski
and Taylor Pyatt
also are expected to play after missing recent games because of upper-body injuries.
|Photo by Getty Images.
Despite missing 10 games this season, captain Shane Doan
is leading the Coyotes with 19 goals. Defenseman Keith Yandle
is tops with 59 points, but he has notched just two in the past eight games.
Los Angeles last played on Monday and lost 6-1 at San Jose.
Goalie Jonathan Quick was removed from that game after allowing four goals on 16 shots. Quick will be back in net tonight.
The Kings will enter the game with 24 home victories. Only two teams – Vancouver and Pittsburgh – have won more home games this season. They also will enter the game ranked second in the NHL in penalty killing at 85.8 percent and first in penalty killing on home ice at 88.5 percent.
The Kings have five 20-plus goal scorers for the first time since the 1993-94 season: Dustin Brown (28), Anze Kopitar (25), Dustin Penner (23), Justin Williams (22), and Ryan Smyth (21).
Like the Coyotes, the Kings have been playing without key players in the final weeks of the season. Kopitar (ankle) is out for the season and Williams (shoulder) is expected to be sidelined until the playoffs start.