Kings finish back-to-back set at Arizona

BY foxsports • December 1, 2016

The Los Angeles Kings will not have much time to dwell on a poor effort that snapped their longest winning streak of the season.

The Kings meet the Arizona Coyotes for the first time this season on Thursday night at Gila River Arena in Glendale, Ariz.

Los Angeles won only two of five games against the Coyotes in 2015-16, but both wins came on the road. The Kings tallied 10 goals in those victories compared to only five in three losses at Staples Center.

The Kings (12-10-1) 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. Three of Brown's 19 career goals against the Coyotes were game-winners.

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. Despite an 0-3-0 record with a 3.39 goals-against average and .875 save percentage, Zatkoff he is ready to make his first start since Nov. 11, if needed

"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."

The Coyotes return to the southwest to open a quick two-game homestand after splitting two games on the road. After a one-goal win over the Edmonton Oilers, Arizona was outshot 42-19 on Tuesday by San Jose and fell 2-1 in overtime.

The Coyotes (8-10-3) could be without a key player for this contest. Defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson sat out the third period against the Sharks with an upper-body injury, and his potential loss could be particularly difficult for a team that ranks 25th in the league in scoring with 2.33 goals per game.

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.

"It's something he's dealing with, but everyone is dealing with something at this point of the season," Arizona general manager John Chayka told the Coyotes' official website. "We hope he's in the lineup (Thursday) because he's our star player."

Another star who is shining for the Coyotes is Mike Smith. He made 40 saves against San Jose, and he is 2-0-1 this season when facing at least 40 shots. Smith won four of his past six starts against Los Angeles, posting a 1.97 goals-against average and a .948 save percentage.

Smith missed 12 games with a lower-body injury before returning on Oct. 16. In his past six games, Smith surrendered two goals or fewer five times, posting a 3-1-2 record.

"Overall, he's in a really good place, and that gives us a chance to win every night," 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."

Arizona's eight wins are the fewest in the Western Conference, but the Coyotes are 5-4-0 at home this season.

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