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Game Day Preview #52, Arizona Coyotes @ Los Angeles Kings

Calling this a must-win makes me feel a little itchy, but here we are.

NHL: Los Angeles Kings at Arizona Coyotes Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Preview: Arizona Coyotes (12-30-9) @ Los Angeles Kings (27-19-5)

Game Time: 7:30 PM, FS-W

February feels a little early for phrases like “must-win game against the Arizona Coyotes” but here we are. After the complete debacle that was the Nashville game, the Kings are back at home (where they’ve been just okay, with a 12-9-3 record) to face off against the bottom-of-the-West Coyotes (who have been equally bad at home or on the road, but who have already beat the Kings once already this season).

“Beat the team with three wins in their last ten” shouldn’t be a big ask — but the Kings too have just three in ten. Since the turn of the calendar, the Kings have collected eight points out of a possible 24. That’s good for last in the league. They’ve scored 27 goals, which isn’t last, but is close to it — the Coyotes have 25, but in two fewer games played.

As the kids say: that’s bad, fam.

The Kings lineup gets a bit of a shakeup, with Marian Gaborik and Nick Shore both out, based on practice lines. Shore being scratched is a bit of a surprise; he was one of the few players in the Nashville game that had any plays whatsoever that were memorable, but perhaps he’s still battling the injury that kept him out of a few games before the break.

That allows Mike Amadio and Jonny Brodzinski to draw back in, and maybe they’ll get more than six or seven minutes of ice time to show what they can do.

Alec Martinez is out after missing the third period in Nashville; he’s categorized as day-to-day for now. Prayer and/or jazz hands for Alec’s recovery. That puts Paul LaDue back in the lineup; he plays more of an offensive-minded game like Martinez does, so pairing him with Jake Muzzin makes sense.

Clayton Keller continues to be a bright spot for the Coyotes in his first full year in the NHL. He leads the team in points, though has just two assists in his last five games. Max Domi is stuck in a goal-scoring slump; he only has three on the season and hasn’t scored since December 16. His shooting percentage has taken a nose dive — during his rookie season in 2015-16, he shot at 11.5%, for 18 goals over 81 games. This year, he’s at an absolutely unbelievable 2.9% in 51 games played. The Coyotes would love to get him going, though what he’s going to accomplish alongside Zac Rinaldo, I have no idea. (Also, newsflash: Zac Rinaldo is somehow still employed.)

Starting in net for Arizona is Scott Wedgewood, who put on a solid performance to defeat the Kings the last time these teams met. Typical starter Antti Raanta was involved in a car accident a few days ago and while he was said to just be shaken up, it looks like the team isn’t rushing him back. Given how well Wedgewood performed previously against the Kings, it’s probably a smart decision. But it’s just another blow for Raanta, who came to Arizona to assume the role of starter, but has dealt with injuries and performance issues all season.

Darcy Kuemper appears to be getting the start tonight for the Kings. He was first off the ice after practice, although it wouldn’t be the first time that Quick took extra work and still played anyway. If I were making lineup decisions, I’d play Kuemper — he was great in the Dallas game, and maybe not having Quick behind them will remind the team to play responsibly and not hope that their all-star goaltender is going to bail them out all the time.

Must win. Let’s go.

Projected Line Combinations

Los Angeles Kings

Iafallo - Kopitar - Toffoli
Pearson - Kempe - Brown
Clifford - Mitchell - Lewis
Andreoff - Amadio - Brodzinski

Forbort - Doughty
Muzzin - LaDue
Gravel - Folin

Kuemper
(Quick)

Arizona Coyotes

Perlini - Stepan - Panik
Rinaldo - Domi - Fischer
Rieder - Dvorak - Keller
Martinook - Richardson - Cousins

Ekman-Larsson - Goligoski
Chychrun - Hjalmarsson
Connauton - Schenn

Wedgewood
(Hill)

Opposing Preview: Five for Howling