Kings-Coyotes Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated April 01, 2013
The Los Angeles Kings left home on a down note. A solid trip is just what they needed. The Kings will try to finish off a successful road stretch Tuesday night when the slumping Coyotes look to regroup following a rough run of games away from the desert. Since back-to-back home shutout losses to Dallas and Vancouver, Los Angeles (20-12-3) has gone 3-0-1 on a trip that ends with its final game against Phoenix (14-15-6) this season. The Kings, fifth in the Western Conference, could easily be going for a sweep of the trip had they not given away a two-goal lead in a 4-3 shootout loss to Minnesota on Saturday. Still, they like the position they're in. "We're looking forward to a little bit of rest, getting ourselves back on schedule, back on L.A. time and a big win in Phoenix," said right wing Justin Williams, who extended his season-best goal streak to three in a 3-2 victory over Dallas on Sunday. Williams has a team-best four assists as Los Angeles has taken three of four from the Coyotes this season. The only time he was left off the scoresheet was in the Kings' last visit to Phoenix, a 5-2 loss March 12. Los Angeles had gone 6-0-2 in the previous eight road matchups including playoffs. The Coyotes are looking to end a season-worst two-game home skid. They had their highest-scoring game in six seasons on their just-completed trip - a 7-4 victory over Nashville on Thursday - but they also gave away third-period leads in the two losses, 4-3 in overtime to the Wild on Wednesday and 3-2 in a shootout to San Jose on Saturday. "It's frustrating now,'' said right wing Radim Vrbata, who has three goals and an assist in the last two games. "... It hard when you only play Western Conference teams - you are giving them points and losing ground with each loss.'' The Coyotes, losers of eight of nine, have dropped to 13th in the West. They're still within reach of the final playoff spots, but they'll have to turn it around quickly to avoid missing the postseason for the first time in four seasons. "We're running out of games to get points in," said captain Shane Doan, the team leader with four goals and five points against Los Angeles this season. "It's getting more and more desperate - we have to find better ways to win.'' Improved goaltending from Jason LaBarbera could help. With Mike Smith out with an undisclosed head injury suffered Feb. 21, LaBarbera has surrendered 13 goals while starting the last four games. The former King is 1-3-0 with a 3.47 goals-against average in five games versus Los Angeles. He turned aside all seven shots faced as a third-period replacement for Smith in a 4-0 road loss to the Kings on March 18. The Kings defeated the visiting Coyotes 3-2 the following night behind Jonathan Bernier's season-high 40 saves. Bernier improved to 8-0-0 as a starter with 13 saves Sunday, but Jonathan Quick seems likely to be back in net after getting his first break in six games. Quick has lost three of four starts in Glendale after yielding a season high-tying five goals March 12.
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