Coyotes hope for another strong effort from Smith vs. Kings

The Arizona Coyotes conclude a stretch of eight consecutive games against Pacific Division opponents by hosting the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night at Gila River Arena.

The game can be seen on FOX Sports Arizona and FOX Sports GO, starting at 6:30 p.m.

It will be the first meeting of the season for the two rivals. The Coyotes (8-10-3) won three of five against the Kings (12-10-1) last season, but both of L.A.'s victories came in Glendale — scoring 10 times in the two games.

Coyotes goalie Mike Smith has posted a 3-1-2 record with a .936 save percentage since coming off injured reserve on Nov. 16.

Smith made 40 saves in a 2-1 overtime loss at San Jose on Tuesday night and is 2-0-1 this season when facing at least 40 shots. He has won four of his past six starts against Los Angeles, posting a 1.97 goals-against average and a .948 save percentage.

“Overall, he's in a really good place, and that gives us a chance to win every night,” general manager John Chayka said. “For a young group to have a goalie back there that can kind of stabilize things for you, it certainly helps to get some traction and get your feet underneath you.”

The Coyotes expect to have defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson back in the lineup. He sat out the third period against the Sharks with an upper-body injury.

Ekman-Larsson had four goals in five games against the Kings in 2015-16. Coming into this contest, he is in a four-way tie for second on the team with five goals, and he is tied for third with 10 points. Max Domi and Radim Vrbata share the team lead with 15 points apiece.

The Kings will have to bounce back quickly after a 4-1 loss to the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday, a result that snapped a season-high five-game winning streak. Dustin Brown scored the lone goal in the defeat to snap a five-game goal-scoring drought, and the Kings' former captain will try to build off that against a team he dominated last season. Brown scored just 11 goals in 82 games in 2015-16, but five of them came against Arizona.

Jeff Carter leads the Kings with 10 goals and 19 points.

With games on back-to-back nights, the Kings may go with Jeff Zatkoff in goal over Peter Budaj, who is excelling in place of Jonathan Quick.

A groin injury has limited Zatkoff to just four games, including three starts. He has an 0-3-0 record with a 3.39 goals-against average and .875 save percentage.

“I've been around long enough. You've just got to stay patient and wait your turn,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “We play 82 games, right? We're (23) games in. We need both guys to make it to end. I'm at a point now where I'm just working on kind of getting back to full speed and maintaining that strength to make sure I don't have any more setbacks the rest of the year.”