Game Day Preview #23, Los Angeles Kings @ Arizona Coyotes

Preview: Los Angeles Kings (12-8-2) @ Arizona Coyotes (5-16-3)

Game Time: 6:00 PM, FS-W

The Kings are in Arizona today to hopefully find the cure for what ails them, and that cure might lie in none other than the Arizona Coyotes. You know, the historically bad Arizona Coyotes.

Except, there’s this.

Last five games. Coyotes, 3-2-0, 14 goals. Kings, 1-4-0, ten goals.

The Kings’ sole win came against the Florida Panthers, a team that’s still struggling to find some consistency of their own. The Kings have struggled against good teams (Winnipeg), bad teams (Vancouver), perplexing teams (Vegas). That’s looking more like the Kings of old, not the Kings that started the season with a hot streak, running rampant with creative play, an impeccable netminder, and goals aplenty.

The Kings’ lineup changes tonight may make a difference. They may not. Darcy Kuemper, who got that shut-out win over the Panthers, and who was fantastic in relief of Jonathan Quick, gets the start tonight. Given Quick’s uncharacteristic struggles as of late, you can’t really complain much about that. (For what it’s worth, Quick will get the start tomorrow against Anaheim, barring some sort of bizarre disaster.)

Marian Gaborik looks poised to make his debut with the Kings tonight. The team’s being quiet about it, saying he’s still day-to-day, but every indication from practice is that he’ll draw in on the fourth line. If he’s ready to go, he could bring another scoring touch to that fourth line, even if he’s nowhere near the player he was in years past.

The Kings do need to clear a roster space if they are going to activate Gaborik. For what it’s worth, Kurtis MacDermid, who doesn’t need waivers to be reassigned, split time on the top pairing in practice. Whatever roster move they make is probably going to have to come from the defense, as the only spare forward at the moment is Nic Dowd, who is out with a minor injury. It’s going to be a tough choice for the team, as both MacDermid and Oscar Fantenberg have been putting together solid games on the blue line as of late.

Theoretically, the Kings could also choose to wait a bit longer on Gaborik and just play a forward short, too, and put off any roster decisions until tomorrow, at least. (By game time tomorrow, the Kings will also know if Brooks Laich has cleared waivers.)

The Coyotes are a bad team that shouldn’t be as bad as they are, and they’re a team showing signs of finally being able to put a few good games together. They have players up and down the lineup who can make an impact on both ends of the ice. Derek Stepan was brought in over the off-season to take over the top-line center spot and is providing a good veteran presence for the very young team.

Rookie Clayton Keller leads the team in points and goals and is tied for the league lead in rookie scoring with Vancouver’s Brock Boeser. Keller’s cooled off as of late, with just three points in the past six games, slowing down the “Keller for Calder” talk that’s popped up, but he’s still a force to be reckoned with.

Of course, the Coyotes are still putting Zac Rinaldo on their roster. So.

This could theoretically be a Kempe vs. Kempe game, if Adrian’s older brother Mario draws in. He’s been a healthy scratch recently, so no guarantee he gets in, though. (Otherwise, this post would just be pictures sourced from their Instagrams. No shame.)

For years, of course, many of the Coyotes’ struggles have revolved around inconsistent play in net. Mike Smith could look like the best goalie in the world on one night, and could look like someone who’s never played goal before on the next. Smith was sent off to Calgary, and the Coyotes hoped that perhaps Antti Raanta could be their goalie of the future, but he’s missed significant time with injuries so far, and has been inconsistent when he has played. Raanta was injured against the Sharks the other night, so Scott Wedgewood (three starts, one win) will lead his team out on the ice tonight.

A back-up goalie on a team which hasn’t seen much success lately.

Let’s hope the Kings of Old go away, because otherwise, we know how this game is going to go.

(And hopefully Alec Martinez hasn’t eaten too much pie.)

Projected Line Combinations

Los Angeles Kings

Iafallo - Kopitar - Toffoli
Pearson - Kempe - Brown
Andreoff - Shore - Lewis
Gaborik - Jokinen - Brodzinski

Muzzin - Doughty
Fantenberg - Martinez
Forbort - Folin


Arizona Coyotes

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

Ekman-Larsson - Demers
Goligoski - Hjalmarsson
Connauton - Schenn


Opposing Preview: Five for Howling