Coyotes eager to start anew vs. Kings

When the Coyotes open their 2015-16 season on Friday night in Los Angeles, there seems to be little chance that the Kings will be looking past an opponent that finished at the bottom of the Western Conference standings a year ago.

That’s because the Kings already have one sloppy performance under their belt and will be hungry to show that they’re better than they showed in Wednesday night’s 5-1 loss to San Jose.

The Kings kicked off their season-opening five-game homestand with an initial jolt, taking a 1-0 lead on Nick Shore’s goal at 1:49 in the first period, but it was all downhill from there. The Sharks led 2-1 by the end of the first period and 4-1 by the end of the second.

"We were pretty sloppy," captain Dustin Brown said. "Sloppy in our rushes, sloppy in our (defensive) zone. That was probably most of it. We weren’t competing in the corner and making hard plays coming out of our zone. We didn’t play very well."

Jonathan Quick was outdone by his former backup, Martin Jones, but Kings coach Darryl Sutter was more concerned with a top line of newcomer Milan Lucic, Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik, describing their play as "flat."

"We’re playing against a big, fast team (and) we didn’t play like a big, fast team," Sutter told the team’s official website. "You’ve got to check. If you don’t check, you can’t score. We had a lot of guys, especially top guys, that weren’t interested in that part of the game."

So it could be an angry opponent that Arizona faces on Friday. The Kings have posted three shutouts and allowed only five goals in going 4-0-1 against the Coyotes over the last five meetings. Quick is 3-0-1 with a 1.23 goals-against average and .949 save percentage in that span.

The Coyotes are trying to distance themselves from those times, as well as their 4-23-1 finish to last season that led to their second-worst record since moving to Arizona.

Offense will remain a concern until they prove otherwise after ranking 29th last season with 165 goals, and they managed just four goals in six preseason games.

"Outside these halls I know where we’re probably projected, but I think if our mix is right, there’s a lot of people who are anxious to get back and show people we are better than we were, " general manager Don Maloney said.

The Coyotes are excited about what they believe is a deep and talented crop of young players developing in their system. Two of the graduates are Max Domi and Anthony Duclair, who will be counted on provide a needed infusion of skill. Domi played two years in the minors after being the 12th overall pick of the 2013 draft, and Duclair came to Arizona from the New York Rangers in the Keith Yandle trade.

Domi was skating on the Coyotes’ No. 1 line with center Antoine Vermette and Mikkel Boedker at Tuesday’s practice, and Duclair was teamed with Martin Hanzal and Tobias Rieder on the No. 2 line.

Maloney, speaking with Arizona Sports 98.7, cautioned against expecting the younger players to carry the load and said the team’s success will be predicated more on the team’s veteran core.

The Coyotes’ off-season remodeling included the return of three players with Coyotes roots: centers Vermette and Boyd Gordon and defenseman Zbynek Michalek. Other additions include forwards Brad Richardson and Steve Downie and defenseman Nicklas Grossmann.

Coyotes at Kings, 7 p.m. Friday, FOX Sports Arizona

The familiar faces are led by captain Shane Doan and goaltender Mike Smith. Doan is looking to contribute more than the 36 points he managed last season, and Smith is also looking to bounce back after posting the worst goals-against average of his career (3.16) a year ago.

"That’s the group that has to kind of keep this thing afloat for a while as our young players emerge and grow and figure out the NHL," Maloney said. "It’s an exciting time for us."

Maloney said Smith has looked strong in preseason camp, and he expects the team in front of him to make his job easier.

"I’ve really liked the way Mike’s looked so far," Maloney said. "He looks comfortable, he looks calm.

"I think collectively as a group, with a lot less emphasis on Mike and a lot more on the team in front of Mike, if everybody does their job then we’ll be a fun team to watch."