Kings-Coyotes Preview: Pacific Points

Since we last met the Phoenix Coyotes...

INJURED: The lineup hasen't been posted, but several 'Yotes are questionable for tonight. Goalie Mike Smith missed the last couple of games with a groin injury, so our old friend Jason Labarbera is the probable starter. Second line center Martin Hanzal took a stick to the face from David Backes in the third period of their last game, and will be evaluated. As he is usually matched up against Anze Kopitar, that would be a big loss for Phoenix.

If Hanzal doesn't play, I'd expect Cal O'Reilly to see more ice time. This playmaking center, recently acquired from the Preds, is finally on a hot streak with four points in his last five games.

Further Reading: Five For Howling

IN/OUT for the Kings: Martinez, Loktionov, and Drewiske appear to be the scratches. Trent Hunter remains on the fourth line.

Though goal scoring remains a concern, and the team was shelled in the shot war against SJ (with the exception of Greene and Johnson, who excelled against Handzus' line), they did eke out a point. That's 1-0-1 for the Sutter Era. At least the power play, which apparently cannot function without Mike Richards (8%, guys? Really?), doesn't have to do without him any longer.

It's only December, but every game is now crucial. Phoenix is an excellent road team that will be prepared to fight just as hard. We're in for a long season of nailbiting.