By Dan Pieringer
Phoenix (34-37-7) at Los Angeles (31-35-11), 10:00 p.m. EDT
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The Phoenix Coyotes and Los Angeles Kings
have two of the three worst records in the Western Conference,
but only the Kings have been playing like it lately.
The Coyotes look to continue their dominance of the struggling
Kings and get their season-high fourth straight win Saturday
night when the Pacific Division rivals finish a home-and-home
series at Staples Center.
Phoenix (34-37-7) and Los Angeles (31-35-11) are near the bottom
of the West standings, and both clubs have been eliminated from
However, the Coyotes appear determined to close the season on a
high note. They've gone 6-2-1 over their last nine and won three
straight for the first time since Nov. 8-12. They haven't had a
longer winning streak since a five-game run from Dec. 31,
2007-Jan. 8, 2008.
Phoenix appears to have a good chance to continue its current
streak based on its recent play against Los Angeles. The Coyotes
are 4-1-0 against the Kings this season, and they've outscored
them 17-10 in going 5-1-0 in the last six meetings at Staples
Phoenix opened this home-and-home series with a 2-1 win Thursday
night, dropping Los Angeles to 1-5-1 in its last seven.
That win was largely due to goaltender Al Montoya, who will
start again Saturday. The rookie has held opponents to one goal
in winning his first two NHL starts. He delivered a shutout in
his debut at conference-worst Colorado on Wednesday before
making 20 saves against Los Angeles.
"It's a simple game if you keep it simple," Montoya told the
Coyotes' official Web site. "Just play hard and cut down the
angles, and that's what I want to do. My defensive corps is
doing a great job at letting me see the puck and feel it."
Coyotes winger Scottie Upshall scored the winning goal at the
14:06 mark of the third period Thursday but deflected the credit
to Phoenix's defense.
"Our team is playing great," Upshall said. "Montoya the last
couple games has been outstanding for us and a big reason why we
have two (wins) here in the last couple games. ... It says a lot
for our tenders and for everyone in front of him."
Kings coach Terry Murray, however, said his team didn't do
enough to challenge the 24-year-old Montoya. Los Angeles managed
21 shots to Phoenix's 32 and has lost 12 straight games in which
it has been outshot.
"We didn't generate a lot to test their goaltender very often,"
The Kings' lack of offense spoiled a strong performance from Jon
Quick, who made 30 saves. Quick, who has started each game
during the Kings' 1-5-1 stretch, is 1-3-0 with a 2.27
goals-against average in four career games against the Coyotes -
all this season.