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Game Day Preview #70, Los Angeles Kings @ Arizona Coyotes

Hello, Darcy.

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

Preview: Los Angeles Kings (38-26-5) @ Arizona Coyotes (22-35-11)

Game Time: 7:00 PM, FS-W

It seems to happen every year, without fail. The Arizona Coyotes muddle through enough of the season to put the playoffs out of reach and then, suddenly, find their groove. You know, when all the groove does is worsen their chances at a top draft pick.

It’s happening again this year — the Coyotes are 6-3-1 in their last ten. They have three shutouts in that span, including one by our former delightful backup goalie, Darcy Kuemper.

If you back it up even further, the Coyotes are 10-3-2 in their last 15 games. Eight times, they’ve limited an opponent to two goals or less. In ten of the games, they’ve either outshot their opponent, or been within a handful of shots of being even. They may not play particularly exciting hockey, and they may not be terrible consistent, but the Coyotes aren’t — oh man, I can’t help myself — going to just roll over and play dead even though their season isn’t over.

Watch out for Clayton Keller on the top line; the rookie leads the Coyotes in points this year and has been a bright spot for the team through their struggles. Derek Stepan has embraced his role as both first line center and veteran presence, as well as providing an inordinate amount of fun content for the Coyotes’ social media team:

The Coyotes probably haven’t forgotten the drubbing they got last time they faced the Kings — a 6-0 shutout by none other than Darcy Kuemper. Kuemper’s on the other side of the ice, now, and even though he wasn’t a King for long, he’s probably excited about the possibility of turning the tables on his old team.

On the other end of the ice, could Kuemper be facing off against the player who replaced him? With Quick having started last night, it’s the perfect time to give Jack Campbell another start. His struggles against the Blues, when he appeared in relief of Jonathan Quick, are probably more indicative of how poorly the whole team played, rather than much of a fault in his game. (For a great story on Campbell and his journey back to the NHL, spend a few minutes with this story from Josh Cooper.)

The Kings will probably use the same lineup as last night. After all, it seemed to work out pretty well for everyone, particularly Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson, who scored some pretty sweet goals. It’d be great if they could do it again.

Every game’s important at this point of the season, with how competitive the Pacific is. The Ducks are just one point behind the Kings and are currently out of a playoff spot. They’re playing the Canucks tonight, and while I’m not a betting person, I’ve got a sinking feeling they’re going to pick up two points. The Kings would do well to keep pace with them, and no better place to do it than Arizona.

Projected Line Combinations

Los Angeles Kings

Iafallo - Kopitar - Brown
Rieder - Carter - Lewis
Pearson - Kempe - Toffoli
Clifford - Thompson - Mitchell

Forbort - Doughty
Martinez - Phaneuf
Muzzin - Folin

Campbell
(Quick)

Arizona Coyotes

Panik - Stepan - Keller
Domi - Dvorak - Perlini
Martinook - Richardson - Cousins
Archibald - Hamilton - Fischer

Ekman-Larsson - Demers
Connauton - Hjalmarsson
Chychrun - Goligoski

Kuemper
(Hill)

Opposing Preview: Five for Howling