NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Thursday, April 8th (All times eastern)
Phoenix Coyotes (49-25-6) at Los Angeles Kings (45-27-7), 10:30 p.m.
(Sports Network) - Both the Kings and Coyotes have clinched their first playoff berths since 2002. There is also a good chance that one of those clubs could send the other home in the first round.
In a possible Western Conference quarterfinals matchup, Los Angeles will look to make a move up the standings tonight in a home battle with Phoenix at Staples Center.
The Coyotes knocked off the Predators, 5-2, on Wednesday to officially clinch the West's fourth seed, giving them home-ice advantage in the postseason's opening round. They could play host to the Kings, who are currently seventh in the West with 97 points but could move past the Predators and Red Wings -- who are both idle tonight and have 98 points -- and into fifth place with a victory tonight.
With three games remaining, Los Angeles has two games in hand over Nashville and has also played one fewer game than Detroit.
The Kings are 3-0-1 over their last four games and are coming off a 5-4 shootout win over the Ducks on Tuesday that saw them rally from a three-goal deficit. Alexander Frolov started the rally with a power-play goal late in the second before Justin Williams and Michal Handzus netted third-period goals to force overtime.
"This was big," said Anze Kopitar of the comeback. "It shows we can do it. At the same time, we realize if we play like that from the start, it's going to put us in this kind of position. We need to focus and get more intense at the beginning of the game."
Jack Johnson and Kopitar both scored in the shootout and Erik Ersberg topped two of three skaters he faced. Ersberg made 12 saves after replacing Jonathan Quick in the second period.
Quick, though, remains the Kings' No. 1 goaltender and will make the start tonight. That will allow him to tie the single-season club record for appearances by a netminder with 71, set by Felix Potvin in 2001-02.
The Kings are 22-13-4 at home this year and play their final regular-season game at the Staples Center on Saturday versus Edmonton. They then end their season the following day at Colorado.
The fifth seed and playoff-opening round in Phoenix might not be a good thing for Los Angeles. The Coyotes picked up their seventh victory in a row at home on Wednesday when they bested the Predators. Phoenix will carry that streak into the playoffs as their final two games of the season are on the road.
Five different Coyote skaters scored last night, with Shane Doan's goal maybe being the biggest. Phoenix's captain notched his first tally since Jan. 31, a span of 23 games between goals.
"It was getting to be an awful long time, and it was big to get one," Doan told Phoenix's Web site. "When you're not scoring things seem to be a bit harder. Hopefully things will be a bit easier for me."
Wojtek Wolski had a goal and an assist, while Taylor Pyatt, Lauri Korpikoski and Petteri Nokelainen all added tallies. Ilya Bryzgalov allowed a goal just 12 seconds into the game, but settled down to make 23 saves.
The Coyotes, who end their regular season on Saturday in San Jose, will try to snap a four-game road losing streak tonight.
Phoenix is 2-2-1 versus the Kings this year and has lost two of its last three in Los Angeles.
04/08 11:23:07 ET