Coyotes host Kings looking to strenghten playoff positioning
Though the surprising Arizona Coyotes took some knocks just before the All-Star break, they remain in position to make a run at their first postseason appearance in four years.
Their dominance against Pacific Division opponents has played a large role in that, and they'll hope to continue that trend Tuesday night as they host the division-leading Los Angeles Kings in Dave Tippett's 1,000th career game as a head coach.
The game can be seen on FOX Sports Arizona, beginning at 6:30 p.m.
The Coyotes (24-20-5), who haven't reached the playoffs since falling to Los Angeles in the 2012 Western Conference finals, are 3-0-1 against the Kings this season and 11-2-2 against division opponents. They've already matched their win total from last season and stand in third place in the Pacific, behind L.A. and San Jose. Tuesday night will be their final game of the season against the Kings, but they still have four more games to play vs. the Sharks.
The Coyotes defeated the Kings 3-2 on Jan. 23 at Gila River Arena, their final home game prior to the All-Star break. Louis Domingue, named the NHL rookie of the month for January, had 26 saves.
But Domingue allowed a season-high goals total in Arizona's final game before the break -- a 5-2 loss at Winnipeg last Tuesday. The Coyotes headed into the break with a 2-4-1 mark over their last seven games.
Defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson has been the Coyotes' top offensive performer against L.A., registering four goals and an assist. His 14 goals overall are tied for second among all NHL defensemen.
The Coyotes have scored only eight times in their past six games and are 1 for 23 on the power play over that span, but overall, Tippett has been pleased with the competitiveness of his young team.
"Our young players are helping grow this organization," Tippett said. "There's lots of learning to do yet, but they're competitive in every game, and they want to do well and they want to learn, so it's a step in the right direction."
Tippett will be the 24th coach in lead history to coach in 1,000th games. He's 20th on the all-time wins list with 512.
Los Angeles All-Star Jonathan Quick has a 2.19 goals-against average, but he's posted a 3.36 mark in dropping his last three starts. He's also struggled vs. Arizona, going 1-3-0 with a 3.25 GAA.
The Kings (30-16-3) lost three of four before the break and will play eight of the next nine on the road.
"We've got to make sure Tuesday we're as sharp as we were before and get it going again," center Anze Kopitar said. "The ground that we gained on some teams is going away quick."
Vincent Lecavalier has four goals over his last seven games, though he's failed to score in his past six matchups with the Coyotes.
Of the Coyotes' 33 remaining games, 21 are against teams currently in playoff position. The combined points percentage of their remaining opponents is .583, which is the most difficult remaining strength of schedule in the league. (Nashville and St. Louis are at .582, and Dallas is at .581).