Three straight losses and a 1-5-1 mark in their last seven games find the Arizona Coyotes in need of a win to stay in playoff position in the Western Conference Thursday night when they host the Los Angeles Kings.
Earlier this month, the Coyotes were in first place in the Pacific Division. Now they are in fourth, and hold the second wild-card position in the West with several teams not far behind after a 4-2 loss at Anaheim Wednesday night.
It was their first game back from the All-Star break.
“We can make all the excuses we want for (the) first game back from break, but really we had three great practices and we should’ve had a better effort out there,” forward Vinnie Hinostroza said.
Thursday night, Arizona will play its first game at home in 16 days.
“We had a long time off there to regroup and gather our energy,” forward Lawson Crouse said. “There’s no excuses for (Thursday) night. We got the kinks out and now it’s time to get back and go. We’ve got to go. We can’t keep losing these points. They’re huge points right now and it’s only going to get tougher and tougher.”
Head coach Rick Tocchet said mistakes cost the Coyotes against the Ducks. Also, Arizona’s power play is 3-for-22 in its last seven games after not scoring in five chances Wednesday, and Tocchet was visibly unhappy about it.
“Ask those guys (his players). I’m tired of answering questions about the power play. I really am,” Tocchet said. “Buckle up. It’s not going to get any easier.”
The Coyotes face a struggling Kings team that has one win this month, five straight losses and eight defeats in its last nine games (1-7-1). They fell 4-2 to Tampa Bay Wednesday night in the first sporting event at Staples Center since the death of former Lakers star Kobe Bryant.
The Kings paid tribute to Bryant, his daughter Gianna and the victims of the helicopter crash that claimed their lives Sunday morning.
“We started off good, then maybe we slipped a little bit during the course of the second period,” team captain Anze Kopitar told the Los Angeles Daily News. “It seems like an ongoing pattern where we’re losing games by one or two with the empty net.”
The Kings come to Gila River Arena in Glendale, Ariz., winless against the Coyotes in two previous meetings. Arizona won 3-0 at home on Nov. 18 and 3-2 in Los Angeles five days later.
Defenseman Drew Doughty’s consecutive games streak came to an end at 460 after he missed Wednesday night with an undisclosed injury.
Kopitar’s 17 goals. 27 assists and 44 points lead the Kings this season. Los Angeles is 2-4 in the second of back-to-back games this season.
Conor Garland leads the Coyotes in goals with 16, and Nick Schmaltz is the points leader with 37. Arizona is 2-7 in the second of back-to-back games.
–Field Level Media