Preview: Coyotes at Kings, 8 p.m., FOX Sports Arizona
LOS ANGELES — For the second time in less than a week, the Arizona Coyotes find themselves up against an opponent coming off a league-mandated bye week.
The first time worked out quite nicely — a 5-0 shutout of the well-rested Flames on Monday in Calgary. The Coyotes would love to experience a repeat — but know not to expect it — when they take on the Kings in Los Angeles on Thursday night.
Like the Flames, the Kings (28-23-4) are on the Western Conference playoff bubble as they come off their break. They have played nine of their last 10 games on the road, with their lone home game in the last four weeks a 5-0 victory against the Colorado Avalanche on Feb. 1. Los Angeles entered the break on a positive note, beating the Florida Panthers 6-3 on Feb. 9 after getting outscored by a combined 10-0 in the previous two games.
“We played nine out of 10 on the road and we came out 6-4,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter told the team’s website before the break. “Counting the game in California, we played in nine states, so we’ll take that. It doesn’t matter if there’s a break or not. Our team needs a break and deserves a break.”
Overall, NHL teams are a collective 3-8-1 in their first games back after the bye.
The Coyotes (19-29-7) missed a chance to extend their season-long point streak to five games when they lost at Edmonton 5-2 on Tuesday night, putting them at 6-3-1 over the last 10 games.
Phoenix forward Martin Hanzal has four goals in the last three games. He leads the Coyotes with 14 goals and had a two-goal game against the Kings in a 4-3 loss on Dec. 1.
“Trying to play hard,” Hanzal told the Arizona Republic following the loss at Edmonton. “I’ve been lucky a couple times. Puck’s going in for me, which is great, but I’d rather take two points for the team.”
Mike Smith, who recorded his second shutout of the season in Monday’s win at Calgary, is expected back in goal vs. the Kings after he sat out the Edmonton game in favor of Louis Domingue.
Kings goaltender Peter Budaj has given nine goals in his three most recent starts but has been otherwise solid in relief of Jonathan Quick, who has been out since suffering a lower-body injury in the season opener. Budaj owns a 2.11 goals-against average, a .917 save percentage and has a league-leading seven shutouts.
Jeff Carter leads the Kings with 29 goals, putting him on pace for his second 40-goal season.
On the other end of the spectrum, Kings center Anze Kopitar is stuck on six goals, putting him on pace to finish in single digits for the first time in his 11-year career.
But Kopitar does have a team-leading 26 assists, and he’s been a nemesis against Arizona in the two previous meetings between the teams this season — notching one goal and four assists in the two games. The Kings won both by one-goal margins — 4-3 and 3-2.
Jordan Nolan, who has scored three of his four goals this season against the Coyotes, was placed on injured reserve retroactive to Feb. 1 with a lower-body injury.