The Coyotes are facing off against division rivals the Los Angeles Kings for the second game of a five game homestand.
The Arizona Coyotes played their third game against the Vancouver Canucks this season last Sunday, and the Desert Dogs pulled off a 1-0 win. Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored the lone goal of the game just over fifteen minutes into the second period on the power play after Derrick Pouliot was called for hi-sticking Max Domi. Darcy Kuemper was able to notch his first shut out as a member of the Coyotes and fourth of the season, and probably played his best game since being traded traded to the ‘Yotes.
The biggest story of tonight doesn’t have much to do with the team on the ice though but has everything to do with the man behind the bench. Yesterday, General Manager John Chayka announced that Head Coach Rick Tocchet has been granted a leave of absence from the team to deal with a family illness. No details or timetable have been given for Tocchet’s return and as Chayka announced “Family comes first.” In the meantime Assistant Coach John MacLean will assume head coaching responsibilities. MacLean was previously a head coach with the New Jersey Devils in 2010, but was fired after the team started the season with a 9-22-2 record.
The Los Angeles Kings come into tonight’s game extremely deep in the playoff hunt this year. The Pacific Division is so tight that two points isn’t the difference between a making the playoffs or missing the playoffs. Instead it could mean the difference between missing the playoff and being second in the division and playing with home ice.
Los Angeles made a few moves at the deadline to hopefully give them the extra push needed down the stretch. Coyotes fans are probably most familiar with their acquisition of Tobias Rieder and Scott Wedgewood in exchange for Kuemper. Wedgewood was eventually sent to the minors and Rieder has been a healthy scratch for the Kings’ past two games. The Kings also acquired Dion Phaneuf and Nate Thompson from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for Marian Gaborik and Nick Shore. Gaborik’s play in LA was definitely on the decline since his first full season where he scored 27 goals in 69 games. Phaneuf should be an upgrade for the Kings defense and in 12 games with the Kings he has matched the amount of goals he had in 53 games with the Senators.
The last time these two teams met, the Kings dominated the Coyotes in a 6-0 shutout, which happened to be Kuemper’s third of the season. Since that game Arizona has a record of 10-5-2 in 17 games and Los Angeles has 11-7-0 in 18 games. The Coyotes and Kings are the league’s 11th and 10th best teams, respectively, in that time period. The winner of this game will decide who gets to stay on top.
Read the full story at Five for Howling.