The Phoenix Coyotes have been one of the league’s best defensive
teams, helping them to a five-game winning streak and a return to
relevance after six straight seasons without a playoff berth.
The Los Angeles Kings, however, haven’t been impressed, and
they’ll try for a third straight victory both overall and against
Phoenix as two of the NHL’s surprise contenders square off again
Thursday at Staples Center.
Phoenix’s 2.27 team goals-against average, which ranks second to
Chicago in the Western Conference, can be credited in large part to
the play of Ilya Bryzgalov, who ranks third in the NHL in GAA
(1.99) and is tied for second in wins (17).
Bryzgalov has been in net for the Coyotes’ entire winning
streak, compiling a 1.39 GAA in that stretch and earning his fourth
shutout of the season with 28 saves in a 2-0 win over Minnesota on
“Yeah, I guess he’s doing OK for us right now,” Phoenix captain
Shane Doan joked. “He’s so confident and he makes the game look so
easy even when it isn’t. He always squares to the puck and guys are
always hitting him in the middle of his body. As a shooter, that’s
“When your goalie is the best player on the ice, it’s a lot
easier to play the game.”
Although veteran defenseman Ed Jovanovski will miss Thursday’s
game, beginning a two-game suspension for a blow to the head
against Minnesota, the Coyotes (18-11-1) will be trying to win six
straight for the first time since a seven-game run midway through
the 2006-07 season.
The surge, which has continued even though Phoenix is 0 for 18
on the power play in the last five games, has boosted the team to
sixth place in the West, two spots behind the Kings.
“The buzz can be on the outside, but on the inside of the room
we know exactly what we should be doing,” first-year coach Dave
Tippett told the Coyotes’ official Web site. “You recognize what
you’re doing when you’re having success, but every day is a new day
and you’re only as good as your last game.”
They could be even higher if not for their 1-2-0 record against
Los Angeles, one of the few teams that has consistently solved
Phoenix’s defense. The Kings have scored 13 goals in the three
matchups, including 5-3 road wins in each of the last two.
While backup Jason LaBarbera was in net for one of those games,
Bryzgalov will likely get the start Thursday. He’s 8-2-0 with a
2.20 GAA in his last 10 starts against Los Angeles.
The Kings (19-10-3) have used an improved offense as they try to
snap a playoff drought that equals Phoenix’s slump. They’ve scored
at least four goals in four of their last five games, including a
5-4 overtime win over Pacific Division-leading San Jose on
“Obviously it’s huge for our team, not only in the standings but
emotionally it’s a big boost for us knowing we’re capable of
playing with these guys,” said right wing Dustin Brown, who scored
the game-winner. “To come in here and get points is a huge boost
Brown’s goal was his first since Nov. 7, and Los Angeles could
be even more encouraged after getting a goal from Anze Kopitar, who
had not scored since Nov. 9. Kopitar has scored just three of his
team-leading 36 points in the last eight games.
“They got it going here tonight,” Kings coach Terry Murray said
of Brown, Kopitar and Teddy Purcell, who scored for the first time
since Oct. 8. “Hopefully they can maintain that.”