By Dave Vest
The Coyotes will try to extend their season-high point streak to nine games tonight when they host the Los Angeles Kings at Jobing.com Arena. The puck drops at 7 p.m. (Arizona time).
Phoenix (29-21-9) will enter the game in seventh place in the Western Conference standings, but just two points behind first-place San Jose in the Pacific Division.
Tonight’s game will be played less than a week after a nasty match between the Coyotes and Kings at the Staples Center, which Phoenix won 1-0. That game featured four fights, 62 penalty minutes and a playoff-like intensity.
“I'd expect the same atmosphere as we had in LA,” Coyotes goalie Mike Smith
said. “We're getting down into the 20s with games left and teams are still trying to get points, and so are we. We've got to come with the same mind-set that it's kind of do-or-die for every team right now. I wouldn't expect anything less than another battle.”
Smith, who has posted a .968 save percentage during a personal seven-game winning streak, will start in goal.
Phoenix will likely look to right wing Radim Vrbata
to lead the offense; Vrbata has scored four of his team-high 28 goals vs. LA.
The Coyotes will play minus several injured regulars including center Kyle Chipchura
, forward Taylor Pyatt
, and defensemen Rostislav Klesla
and Derek Morris, who has left the team indefinitely because of a family illness. Center Martin Hanzal
, who left Saturday’s game vs. Dallas because of a lower-body injury, took part in today’s morning skate and will be a game-time decision.
On Tuesday, the Coyotes recalled forward Alex Bolduc and defenseman David Rundblad
from their American Hockey League affiliate to help fill out the roster.
|Photo by Getty Images.
“We need people to continue to step up for us,” Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said when asked about overcoming the team’s many injuries. “The key there is we have to play a strong team game. We can't be relying on any one person to take us over the top.”
Los Angeles (27-21-11) has been shut out in each of its past two games and ranks ninth in the Western Conference standings with 65 points.
“As frustrating as these last two games have been, offensively, we've got to refocus,” Kings captain Dustin Brown told reporters after a 1-0 loss to Calgary on Saturday.
LA’s top-four goal scorers - Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards, Brown and Justin Williams - have scored just three goals combined in the last eight games.
Goalie Jonathan Quick has stopped 126 of 133 shots in five games vs. the Coyotes this season. His stats in those games: 3-1-1 record, 1.38 goals-against average and a .947 save percentage.