Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Kings: Need to keep the heat in Phoenix
By Dan Arritt
Kings (22-12-1) vs. Phoenix Coyotes (16-12-7) at Jobing.com Arena, 6 p.m. PT
Five storylines to track:
1. Three in a row? – Blew out the Red Wings in Detroit, humbled by St. Louis one game later. Hammered the hot Predators in Nashville, lost the next day in Chicago. Overwhelmed the streaking Avalanche in Colorado, won a shootout against last place Edmonton two days later. At last, the Kings have strung together two excellent performances against good teams, beating the Ducks, 4-1, on Sunday and winning 24 hours later in San Jose, 4-0. The Coyotes seem ripe for a beating, but will the Kings play down to their level?
2. White-hot Brown – Nobody ever questioned Dustin Brown’s toughness. He was second in the NHL last season with 287 hits, and has never shied away from a good scrum. But there have been countless message board debates regarding his qualifications as a top line winger. Many argued he didn’t have the offensive skills to fit that role. Now that he has piled up 19 points in the last 12 games, it’s amazing how far those threads have fallen.
3. Who’s in goal? Who cares? – Thanks to the recent strong play of back-up goalie Jonathan Bernier, coupled with the continued excellence of Jonathan Quick, Kings fans aren’t wearing out the refresh key wondering who's startin goal heading into another back-to-back set. Quick would be the smart bet since Phoenix is a Pacific Division foe and Thursday’s opponent, the visiting Philadelphia Flyers, hail from the East, but Quick said earlier this season that Phoenix was his least favorite place to play due to the small crowds.
4. While we're discussing goalies... – Good chance the Kings see old friend Jason LaBarbera in net for the Coyotes. Ilya Bryzgalov, the No. 1 goalie for Phoenix, played for the first time Tuesday night since missing five games with an upper-body injury and gave up three goals in the first nine shots in a 3-1 loss to the visiting Ducks. Pretty safe to guess the Coyotes won’t risk putting him through back-to-back games so quick. LaBarbera, who was 33-40-8 during the dark years in Los Angeles from 2005-09, is coming off a shutout Sunday against Dallas.
5. Offensively-challenged – The Coyotes are hurting for offense. They’ve lost three of four and scored one goal in each game. They even share something in common with the New Jersey Devils; They’re the only teams in the NHL that don’t have a double-digit goal scorer. But the Coyotes still have Shane Doan, a constant threat to break out with a huge game. He has 62 points in 72 career games against the Kings and is probably licking his chops after missing their Oct. 21 meeting while serving a three-game suspension for an illegal hit on Anaheim’s Dan Sexton.