HOW TO WATCH
Game Time: 5:00 PM Pacific
TV: Fox Sports West
Radio: iHeart Radio
The Opposition: Five for Howling
We say it just about every year, but we’ll say it again now: if the Coyotes hadn’t had such a remarkable string of injuries and bad luck, maybe they would have been firmly in a playoff spot for once.
But: surprise! The Coyotes are just outside of a playoff spot, despite missing starting goaltender Antti Raanta and centers Nick Schmaltz and Derek Stepan. Other major players have missed significant time, too, including Christian Dvorak, Jakob Chychrun, and Jason Demers. It’s been a remarkably competitive run for the team who essentially were written off as soon as Antti Rannta was injured in November.
Maybe someday all of the key Coyotes will be healthy at the same point in the season — the beginning of the season, even — but for now, what we’re watching is a team battle for every point, even when they probably don’t have any business being where they’re at in the standings.
And the Coyotes are making a statement.
They won six in a row before a loss to the Ducks, but on Thursday, they picked right up where they left off, blanking the Calgary Flames, the (currently ranked as) best team in the Western Conference. They’re getting it done via scoring-by-committee, too. Their points leader is Clayton Keller with just 42 points, and Brad Richardson—yes, that Brad Richardson—is their goals leader with 16 goals. Ten players have 10 or more goals on the season, so the work’s being done, just maybe not in the way the top teams in the league would most identify with.
This game means a ton to the Coyotes as they look to keep their playoff hopes alive.
It doesn’t mean a ton to the Kings, who are bad and will remain bad, no matter who they put in or take out of their lineup. The Kings are playing for pride now, which is tough when they know the end result is not going to result in moving the needle on their chances of success this season. The only point of this game for the Kings is a chance to play spoiler for other teams; a Kings win would leave them feeling good, and would leave the Coyotes in a tougher position to keep competitive down the stretch.
Furthering how little this means to the Kings, they’re calling up Carl Grundstrom to play. And it’s no knock on Grundstrom, but a prospect like him normally wouldn’t be getting a look this late in the season.
The Kings have shifted into evaluation mode, so they’re giving one of the key pieces of the Muzzin trade a look. He’ll debut alongside Adrian Kempe and Tyler Toffoli, who have been a pairing who have looked good but who haven’t always had the results. His tougher, more physical style of play could be a good complement for Kempe and Toffoli, who could use someone who’s eager to go into the dirty areas and crash the net to help create some offense.
This game means nothing. Let’s try to make it fun anyway.