The Arizona Coyotes look to finish off the So-Cal trip on a high note before traveling to Las Vegas.
Tonight’s game is the second game in a two-game series against the Los Angeles Kings that rounds out the Coyotes round trip to Southern California. Arizona came into Monday night’s game coming off of a sweep of the Anaheim Ducks, and the early tone set by Michael Bunting played a key role in the Coyotes 5-2 victory Monday night. The victory marked their sixth win in seven games.
The victory Monday night was the complete game that we asked for following an overtime victory on Sunday in which the Coyotes spent most of the game playing from behind. Michael Bunting played like a man possessed and led the Yotes in both points and willpower against the Kings.
Arizona has capitalized on outstanding play from their young talent of late and looks like a team truly deserving of a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Aside from two big losses to the Colorado Avalanche in recent weeks, the Yotes have been playing lights out over the last ten games. Their 7-2-1 record is the 3rd best in the NHL, trailing only the Nashville Predators (8-2-0) and the Colorado Avalanche (8-0-2).
Among all of the recent success still lingers the harsh reality that there are not many points between the Desert Dogs and the teams trailing them in the standings.
A win against the Kings this evening is just what the team needs. It would help the Coyotes maintain and grow their lead in the standings above the St. Louis Blues, San Jose Sharks, and Los Angeles Kings. But it would also allow them to leave Southern California with their heads held high as they dive in headfirst into the toughest stretch of games this season.
This game is a “must-win” matchup for both sides. For Arizona, this upcoming game is an opportunity to seize further control of their own playoff destiny and provides the necessary mental head start going into Las Vegas. For Los Angeles, it means breaking the longest home losing streak of the season while regaining their footing in a competitive race for the 4th spot in the NHL West division.
Here are my keys to victory for tonight’s big matchup:
Maintain momentum: The Desert Dogs got hot on multiple occasions against the Kings on Monday night. But despite having the lead for the entire game, Arizona had difficulty bouncing back following goals scored by Los Angeles. The Kings are a team with plenty of talent and can turn around a game in minutes. If the Coyotes are going to continue to have success, they need to maintain composure in the face of adversity and continue to play at their own pace.
Power Play, Power Play, Power Play: Both teams were efficient on the Power Play Monday night in Los Angeles. To continue the winning streak, it is vital to Arizona that they minimize penalties and stay disciplined. On the other end of the spectrum, it is just as crucial to draw penalties against LA, and capitalize on the man advantage.
“Beggars can’t be choosers, and leaders can’t be chasers”: Aside from the game with the little white ball played on lush green grass, the entire point of every sport is to have more points than the other team at the end of the game. This becomes a lot easier when your team scores first. The winning percentage of teams that score first in the NHL is over 60%. Additionally, about half the games in the NHL result in a one-goal difference in the final score. If Arizona has any chance of coming out of their upcoming games still in a playoff spot, they have to stop chasing the game.
Players to Watch
Arizona: Michael Bunting – This pick was an easy one. Bunting has capitalized on every moment in his time playing for Arizona. In his fourth game in a Coyotes uniform, he had his first career Hat Trick, and the puck found him wherever he went. Bunting has been simply electric since being called up to the NHL. Look for this Hat Trick to carry over into another solid game against Los Angeles.
Los Angeles: Anze Kopitar – Until their back-to-back losses against the Sharks, LA had not lost back-to-back games at home this season. This home losing streak grew to 3 games following Monday’s loss to Arizona. It’s times like these where the man with the “C” on his chest has to rise to the occasion and turn the tides for his team. Look for Kopitar to be aggressive early in efforts to get the Kings back to winning form.
Arizona: Jordan Oesterle (questionable, undisclosed), Tyler Pitlick (lower body), Antti Raanta (undisclosed), Niklas Hjalmarsson (upper body), Darcy Kuemper (lower body)
Los Angeles: Tobias Bjornfot (questionable, undisclosed), Matt Roy (COVID protocol), Olli Maatta (upper body), Martin Frk (lower body)
Tonight’s game will be at 7:00 PM Arizona time and will air on Bally Sports Arizona Plus and Fox Sports 910 AM.