After returning home from their monster road trip to start the season, the Kings barely had time to unpack their bags after returning home, as after just one game back in Los Angeles the Kings are hitting the road again as they travel to the desert to take on their Pacific Division rival, the Phoenix Coyotes. It’s the Kings’ first divisional match up of the season so far.
The Coyotes defied all odds over the last two years by shockingly making the playoffs in both years, although they were eliminated by the Detroit Red Wings in the 1st round in both years. However, the main reason that the Coyotes were able to pull of their surprising seasons is gone. Due to financial restraints that are well documented, the Coyotes were unable to retain star goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov when he became an unrestricted free agent at the end of last season, and he now plays for the Philadelphia Flyers. As the Kings are well aware of after beating Bryzgalov and the Flyers on Saturday. I don’t think there was a team happier than the Kings when Bryzgalov left the desert, as not only did one of the premier goaltenders in the game leave a division rival to go to a team in the other conference, but Bryzgalov had a tendency for playing even better than usual when he suited up against the Kings.
The speedy, stingy Coyotes had given the Kings fits over the last couple of years, but the Kings finally started to figure out the Coyotes last year, winning all of their final three match ups with Phoenix. With Bryzgalov leaving behind a downgraded team in Phoenix, and a much faster, skilled, and better team in LA, the Kings will be looking to do to Phoenix what they did to the Blues on Tuesday night; bury a team that they are clearly better than. But hey, if burying them doesn’t work, I’ll just take a win anyway it comes…
Although the Coyotes are definitely weaker without Bryzgalov and some of the other players they lost in the summer, they’ve still been a playoff team in the last two years and they deserve some respect. The Kings definitely can’t take this game lightly.
Up front, the Coyotes boast veteran captain and maybe the biggest Kings-killer around, Shane Doan, who’s off to a great start to the season, as is fellow wily vet Ray Whitney. The rest of the Coyotes offense doesn’t exactly strike fear into their opponents, featuring the likes of Daymond Langkow, Mikkel Boedker, Lauri Korpikoski, former King Patrick O’Sullivan, Radim Vrbata, and two-way forwards Martin Hanzal and Taylor Pyatt. And, of course, not to be forgotten, they must watch out for that sniper Paul Bissonnette (unless he’s a healthy scratch).
On the back end, they have a couple of very talented young offensive defensemen in Keith Yandle and Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and their blue line is rounded out by David Schlemko, Adrian Aucoin, Derek Morris, and Rostislav Klesla. Veteran Michal Rozsival is on the injured reserve.
In goal, without Bryzgalov the Coyotes are left with a goaltending tandem of Mike Smith and Jason LaBarbera. So yeah, no reason why the Kings can’t have another big offensive night on Thursday.
The Kings will be looking to improve their record 4-1-1 while extending their winning streak to three games and their point streak to four. Will the Kings keep it rolling in the desert, or will the Coyotes protect home ice?