By Alan Ferguson
Los Angeles (31-34-11) at Phoenix (33-37-7) 10:00 p.m. EDT
GLENDALE, Arizona (AP) -- Los Angeles will likely soon join
Phoenix among the Western Conference teams eliminated from
playoff contention, but the Kings still have a chance to beat
out the Coyotes for last place in the Pacific Division.
With the teams tied at 73 points, the Kings will try to avoid
heading toward a second straight last-place showing in the
Pacific with a home-and-home series that begins Thursday night
at Jobing.com Arena.
Barring a late winning streak or a collapse by third-place
Dallas, the Kings and Coyotes will battle to stay out of last in
the Pacific for the fourth straight season. Los Angeles has
finished fourth in the division in two of the last three
seasons, but was last in 2007-08.
With a 2-6-2 mark in their last 10, the Kings appear headed
toward the basement again. After closing out a season-high,
six-game road trip with a shootout win and overtime loss, Los
Angeles was flat in its return home Tuesday and fell 3-2 to the
Los Angeles allowed Dallas to take a two-goal lead at the end of
the second period and didn't respond until Anze Kopitar scored
with 1:31 remaining.
"When you come off a long road trip, it always seems that you
have a tough time getting into it in the first game at home,"
Kings right wing Justin Williams said. "But at this level of the
game, it's unacceptable for us to have a performance like that.
It's ugly, it stinks, and it won't happen again."
The Kings have been without leading goal scorer Alexander
Frolov, who has missed four games with a lower body injury, and
Jarret Stoll has sat out the last two with an ailing groin.
Defenseman Kyle Quincey is expected to miss the rest of the
season while recovering from surgery for a herniated disc.
The Coyotes, meanwhile, earned their second straight victory
Wednesday - 3-0 over Colorado - and are looking to match their
season's longest win streak.
Al Montoya, the NHL's first Cuban-American, made 23 saves to get
the shutout in his first NHL game, and lead Phoenix to its fifth
win in eight games.
"I thought early in the game he made a couple of key saves. It
was a real solid effort for a guy playing his first NHL game,"
Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky said. "Good for him. Hopefully this
is something good to go from here."
Phoenix will miss the playoffs for a sixth consecutive season,
but the Coyotes are looking for their 10th win in 13 meetings
with Los Angeles.
Phoenix has taken three of four this season but suffered a 4-0
loss in its previous home game against the Kings on December 27.
Shane Doan has scored in consecutive games and needs one more
goal to pass his career-high of 30 set in 2005-06. Doan, who
also leads Phoenix with 68 points, has seven goals and seven
assists in the last 12 contests.
The teams play again Saturday in Los Angeles.