Kings host Coyotes with Ducks game looming (Mar 29, 2018)
The Kings (42-28-7) play the front end of a Pacific Division back-to-back set against a pesky Arizona team that has been a thorn in their side this season.
Though the Coyotes (27-39-11) are in the Pacific Division cellar, Los Angeles has lost two of the first three games (1-0-2) of the season series, the most recent a 4-3 shootout loss in Arizona on March 13. The win was the lone NHL victory for goaltender Adin Hill, who stopped 34 of 37 shots and 4 of 5 shootout attempts.
The Kings are third in the Pacific Division and the importance of winning this game is magnified with the Ducks on the docket Friday night in Anaheim. Los Angeles and Anaheim are tied with 91 points but the Kings maintain the third and final automatic Pacific Division postseason qualifier because it has more regulation and overtime victories.
Los Angeles coach John Stevens noted that he expects playoff-level intensity from the Coyotes, who have played well despite competing in games of no postseason consequence to them. He cites their improving goaltending situation and a key to being more competitive.
“Id say the last 20 games, Arizona is one of the best teams in the league,” Stevens said. “Give them credit. Theyve stuck with it. Theyve really got their team to buy in to the way they want to play.
“They have finally solidified their goaltending, which has been an issue all year, with a lot of it due to injury. But with Antti Raanta and Darcy Kuemper (a former King acquired at the Feb. 27 trade deadline) they are very capable.”
The Kings enter the game down a significant player as defenseman Jake Muzzin left Los Angeles 3-0 win over Calgary on Monday with an upper-body injury which has him listed as week-to-week. Rookie Kevin Gravel will likely draw in on the third pair alongside Christian Folin.
Stevens does not name his starting goaltender prior to games and with the Kings facing a back-to-back, the question is if he will start Jonathan Quick in both contests or have rookie goaltender Jack Campbell take one of the starts.
Campbell has played well since being recalled from the the AHL on Feb. 22. He has not lost a game in regulation in four starts, registering a 1-0-2 record with 2.61 goals-against average and .927 save percentage.
The Coyotes won their second straight road game against a first-place team, defeating the Pacific Division-leading Vegas Golden Knights 3-2 on Wednesday night. Arizona defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-1 on Monday and then flew across country to win the penultimate contest of its six-game road trip.
Kevin Connauton scored two goals and Antti Raanta stopped 27 of 29 shots in the Coyotes first win against Vegas this season (1-2-2).
“We played a pretty complete game,” Connauton said. “After the first two periods we were happy with where we were as a team. We stuck to our system and kept it simple, we werent making the risky plays that we do went we dont get the results in game we want. It was a full 60 minutes.”
Clayton Keller registered an assist to extend his personal career high and Coyotes rookie record point streak to 10 games (five goals, nine assists). He is one of eight players in franchise history to record a streak of 10 games or more.
Kuemper could get the call between the pipes for the Coyotes and could have extra motivation facing the team that traded him Feb. 21. Kuemper was acquired from Los Angeles in exchange for forward Tobias Rieder and goaltender Scott Wedgewood. Kuemper has a lifetime 3-1-2 record against the Kings in seven games with a 2.33 GAA and .924 save percentage.