Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Kings: Feeling the heat in Phoenix
By Dan Arritt
Kings (27-21-11, 65 points) vs. Phoenix Coyotes (29-21-9, 67 points) at Jobing.com Arena, 6 p.m. PT
Five storylines to track:
1. Shuffling the deck – After the Kings were shut out, 1-0, for the second straight game Saturday night, coach Darryl Suttercalled out his top line of Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Justin Williams, citing their lack of contributions. He questioned whether he could break the trio up, however, seeing as there weren’t much better options. Well, he came up with a few during practice Monday, dropping Brown back to right wing on the second line with Mike Richards and rookie Dwight King, and moving another rookie, Jordan Nolan, to left wing on the top line.
2. Uncharted territory – In their 44-year franchise history, the Kings have never experienced three consecutive shutout losses. They've been shut out three straight times, way back in the 1968-69 season, but two of those were 0-0 ties. The Coyotes were the team that blanked the Kings on Thursday at Staples Center, and Mike Smith will likely be back in goal for Phoenix. Smith has been red-hot, allowing one goal or less in his last six starts. Interestingly, Smith was in goal during the middle game of three straight shutouts by Kings goalie Jonathan Quick back in October, which was also a first for the franchise.
3. Round Two? – Since these teams just met five days earlier, they should have fresh memories of the four fights and all-in scrum that occurred during the game. Rusty Klesla, injured by a big hit from Brown early in the game, which led to a fight with Phoenix captain Shane Doan, still isn’t practicing and the Coyotes are likely a little bent about that. Expect the Kings to dress enforcer Kevin Westgarth in an attempt to police Phoenix. The Coyotes, meanwhile, are almost sure to go with their own resident enforcer, Paul Bissonnette.
4. Stoll ready to go – Kings forward Jarret Stoll appears on track to return to the lineup against the Coyotes. He missed the last four games with a hip ailment but practiced in full Monday before the team left for Phoenix. Stoll's absence has been felt the most in the faceoff circle the last two games, when the Kings went 44-60 on the drop. Which position and what line Stoll ends up on is still a mystery.
5. Phoenix injuries – In addition to the injury to Klesla, the Coyotes are also expected to be without forwards Taylor Pyatt (upper-body injury) and Kyle Chipchura (upper body) and defensemen David Schlemko (foot) and Derek Morris (family illness). Phoenix might also be without center Martin Hanzal (lower-body injury), who is expected to be a game-time decision. Hanzal was involved one of the fights last week against the Kings, taking on Richards with a six-inch height advantage.