Coyotes-Kings Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated January 04, 2012
The Los Angeles Kings haven't solved their scoring woes since coach Darryl Sutter took over last month, but the club keeps picking up points. They've done that in each of their last six meetings with the Phoenix Coyotes. Los Angeles looks to extend its season-high point streak to nine Thursday night and send the Coyotes home with a losing four-game road trip. The Kings (19-14-7) were held to 13 goals in the final eight games before coach Terry Murray was fired Dec. 12. The change to Sutter hasn't provided a spark offensively, scoring 14 goals in seven games since he replaced interim coach John Stevens on Dec. 22, but the team is 4-0-3. They're averaging a league-worst 2.1 goals and have scored three or fewer in 17 of 19 following Monday's 2-1 shootout loss to Colorado. Los Angeles held a 32-21 edge in shots and has been outshot only once in its last 11 games. "We had a few good shifts and had some scoring chances, but we just couldn't bury them and it came back to bite us," said Kings leading scorer Anze Kopitar, who ended a career-high 17-game goal drought Saturday and assisted on Dustin Brown's goal Monday. "We had a bunch of 2-on-1s. I had a chance in overtime and I don't know why I didn't shoot it, but I should have put it on net." The Kings converted none of their five power-play chances and have scored just three times in their last 53 opportunities. However, they haven't allowed a power-play goal during the current eight-game point streak, the club's longest since an 8-0-3 run Jan. 22-Feb. 17. Los Angeles continues a six-game homestand with its fourth matchup of the season against the Coyotes (19-17-4). The teams split two games in Arizona in October before the Kings won 4-3 at home Dec. 26 to snap a franchise-record streak of 16 consecutive games with three goals or fewer. Brown, Willie Mitchell, Rob Scuderi and Brad Richardson scored for the Kings, who are 5-0-1 against Phoenix since losing five straight in this series. They will likely face Mike Smith, who returned Tuesday after missing six games with a groin injury and made 27 saves in a 4-1 loss to St. Louis. Phoenix has dropped five of six, including two of three on this road trip, and trails Los Angeles by three points in the tightly packed Pacific Division. "We got out-competed," Smith said. "We've got to find ways to win hockey games." Smith has a 3.80 goals-against average in his last nine games but held Los Angeles to two goals in both meetings in October. His 1.62 GAA in eight starts (6-2-0) versus the Kings is his lowest against any opponent he's faced more than twice. Radim Vrbata hasn't had similar success, going pointless in nine of his last 10 games against them, but did have two goals and an assist in a 3-2 overtime victory over the Kings on Oct. 29. Vrbata scored his team-leading 19th goal Tuesday after snapping a five-game point drought with two third-period goals in Saturday's 4-2 win over Minnesota. Coyotes forward Raffi Torres scored twice in last month's loss at Staples Center but will not be available Thursday, completing a two-game suspension for charging Wild defenseman Nate Prosser. That could be a significant absence as Los Angeles has surrendered just 11 goals in its last eight games. Jonathan Quick is 5-0-2 with a 1.37 goals-against average during that stretch, but he's given up three goals in each of the last two meetings between these clubs. Kopitar has a team-high four points versus Phoenix in 2011-12.
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