Coyotes-Kings Preview

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

so frustrating.

“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

Wednesday night.

“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

for us.”

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.”