Los Angeles Hockey: Derek Morris

Kings looking for repeat performance in Game 2

May, 15, 2012

Western Conference finals

Game 2 (Kings lead series, 1-0)

Kings vs. Phoenix Coyotes at Jobing.com Arena, 6 p.m. PT

Five storylines to track:

1. Just getting started – The Kings have won the opening game in the first three rounds of this postseason, and each time the opponent vowed to be more assertive in the second game. Well, the Kings have outscored their previous two opponents by a combined score of 5-0 in the first period of Game 2, scoring two goals while shorthanded. The Kings are a confident, confident group right now, and the Coyotes will need to do more than just try harder if they want to slow down this runaway locomotive.

LOSPHO2. Road warriors – The Kings have won all six road games in these playoffs, eight straight postseason games away from Staples Center overall and four straight Game 2s on the road dating back to 2010. Only one other team in NHL history has won nine straight road games in the playoffs, the New York Islanders in 1982-83. The Kings have become so focused on their play that they seem to forget whether they’re playing at home or on the road. When a team is that locked in, it’s no surprise they’re playing so well.

3. Line mismatch – The Coyotes had no answer for the Anze Kopitar-Dustin Brown-Justin Williams line. None. Not only did they combine for two goals and two assists in Game 1, but they did a great job of playing keep away with the puck, and as soon as they lost it to Phoenix, they usually swiped it right back. The Coyotes tried to counter the Kopitar line with their own No. 1 group of Martin Hanzal, Ray Whitney and Radim Vrbata, but they had no chance. Even after Phoenix coach Dave Tippett juggled his line combinations late in the game, they didn’t have much of an answer for the KBW line.

4. Surprise, surprise – Kings goalie Jonathan Quick gave up the softest goal of the playoffs, and possibly his career, when Derek Morris scored from the red line late in the first period to tie the score, 1-1. The Kings were dominating the first period and out-shooting the Coyotes, 13-3, just before the goal. If Quick has an Achilles heel, it’s his tendency to get complacent when not facing a lot of shots. That said, expect Quick to be extra focused from start to finish in Game 2 and give the Kings every chance to win another game.

5. Saving face – The referees were throwing players out of the faceoff circle right and left in Game 1, which could leave teams at a disadvantage if they don’t have another capable option on the ice. Good thing for the Kings, their roster is loaded with centers who can step in and do the job. Brad Richardson was called upon after Colin Fraser got tossed, and he came through by winning all four of his draws. Jeff Carter had to step in when Mike Richards was asked to leave, and he went 2-0 on the drop. It’s that type of depth that’s serving the Kings well in all phases of these playoffs.

Kings: Feeling the heat in Phoenix

February, 21, 2012
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 Sutter called 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.

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