Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Kings: Down the stretch they come
By Dan Arritt
Kings (45-28-6. 96 points) vs. Phoenix Coyotes (42-25-12, 96) at Staples Center, 7:30 p.m.
Five storylines to track:
1. The last mile – Oh, the possibilities. Over the last few weeks, each game has grown steadily more important than the last, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the final week is setting up like a mad dash to the finish line. The Kings can clinch a playoff spot and move from sixth to fourth with a victory. A regulation loss and they’re magic number remains at two. Dallas, the only team that can catch the Kings, has three games remaining against non-playoff qualifiers. The Kings play Phoenix, fifth in the West, and back-to-back games this weekend against seventh-place Anaheim.
2. Quick turnaround – Kings goalkeeper Jonathan Quick will get an opportunity to redeem himself after allowing four goals on 16 shots Monday night in a 6-1 loss in San Jose. For the third time this season, he did not finish a game. Quick had a rough time down the stretch last season but much of that was blamed on fatigue after starting 72 of 82 regular-season games. Tired legs shouldn’t a problem this time around. Kings coach Terry Murray has made an effort to rest Quick more this season, as Wednesday’s start will be just his 57th this season.
3. Decisively indecisive – The Dustin Penner whispers have disappeared. Now his slump has become regular hallway chatter. Penner came over in a trade Feb. 28 with Edmonton, bringing with him the type of scoring potential the Kings desperately needed at left wing. Penner lived up to his reputation the first seven games, earning two goals and four assists, but has fallen off the radar since, going pointless in the last nine. Murray told reporters that Penner seems to be showing some hesitancy in his game. For a player who has already won a Stanley Cup title, he should be playing with more decisiveness.
4. Injury updates – Some good news out of Kings camp. Right wing Justin Williams has been skating with the team again. Williams, the team’s second-leading scorer, dislocated his right shoulder March 21 against Calgary and was ruled out three to four weeks. Williams is practicing with a harness and will be permitted to play once his shoulder demonstrates 80% of its strength. Left wing Scott Parse, who underwent surgery on his hip in November, has also been skating with the team but no timetable has been set for their returns.
5. Good as goalie – The Coyotes haven’t played since Friday, giving them fresh legs and a clear mind heading into their biggest game of the season. The Kings have had a tough time getting the puck past goalkeeper Ilya Bryzgalov. He started all five previous games this season against Los Angeles, owning a 2.02 goals-against average and a shutout in that span. Quick, on the other hand, is 1-3 this season with a 4.05 average against the Coyotes.