You're going to hear a lot about motivation today. The narrative, of course, is that the Phoenix Coyotes will be foaming at the mouth, seeking revenge for last year's Western Conference Finals. And as much as the teams will downplay that (and Dave Tippett has done so already), it's certainly going to be on everyone's mind as the puck drops.
However, for the real motivation on each side, look no further than Thursday night. The Los Angeles Kings suffered a brutal overtime loss on the road against Edmonton, and got to see the last-second goal/celebration of Nail Yakupov over and over the next day. The Coyotes didn't even get a point, as held a two-goal lead with 12 minutes remaining but lost 5-3 in San Jose. The 2012 playoffs might provide fuel, but neither team needs it; both teams are desperate enough to win as it is.
Los Angeles Kings vs. Phoenix Coyotes, Jobing.com Arena
Coyotes (projected) lineup:
Scratches: Johnson, Rundblad
Injured: Klesla (lower-body), Lombardi (upper-body), Smith (lower-body)
Kings (projected) lineup:
Scratches: Richardson, Bodnarchuk, Penner
Injured: Greene (back), Mitchell (knee)
- Old friend alert: Jason LaBarbera starts once again, in place of the injured Mike Smith.
- It was thought that Simon Gagne might be a healthy scratch with Brad Richardson rotating back in, but he remains in the lineup, once again on the fourth line with Colin Fraser and Jordan Nolan. Kyle Clifford earns another game on the second line after assisting on Jeff Carter's goal against Edmonton, and contributing to an overall strong performance by his line. Dustin Penner, who sunk the Coyotes in OT of Game 5 last year, is scratched again.
- Jonathan Quick has improved in every game this year, and his performance on Thursday should have been good enough to get the win. But for the second game in a row, the Kings were victimized when they couldn't exit the zone and a defenseman was beaten to the puck in the crease area. With Matt Greene and Willie Mitchell still out, the Kings need their young second and third pairs to hold their own. Not forcing a tired top pair to defend at game's end would be huge.
- The Coyotes have been hit hard by the injury bug; center Martin Hanzal returns to the lineup after missing time with an injury, but as they get him back, they lose center Matthew Lombardi to what is being called a "significant" injury. The Coyotes may hand recently recalled forward Nick Johnson his season debut; Johnson scored 26 points in 77 games in 2011-2012 with the Minnesota Wild.
- The power play continues to struggle, with the Kings 0-19 on the season. Darryl Sutter's advice? Shoot the puck. Dustin Brown's advice? Pretty much the same.
- Five for Howling raises a potential key: Phoenix has been victimized this year by end-of-period letdowns, especially against San Jose and Chicago. The difference could be which team is stronger in these last three minutes.
Overall, the Kings were better on Thursday than in either of the first two games of the season. Check out Robert's breakdown (especially if you were too steamed to read it yesterday). While Phoenix's fans will be screaming for blood, expect the Coyotes themselves to get the physical stuff out of the way early and try to put the Kings on their heels.