Having lost four of their last six, the Phoenix Coyotes will look for a quick turnaround when they host the division rival Los Angeles Kings at Jobing.com Arena on Wednesday night.
After a hot November, the Coyotes have failed to find consistency throughout the month of December, including a road trip that saw them win just two out of six games. They lost their return to Phoenix on Tuesday, in a 3-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks.
After a hot start, the Kings struggled a bit for a stretch, but have gotten right back to their winning ways, grabbing two points in five consecutive games. That includes wins against division foes Anaheim and the San Jose Sharks.
Los Angeles is led by the outstanding play of Vezina Trophy candidate Jonathan Quick between the pipes. Statistically one of the league's top goalies, Quick has four shutouts on the season, second only to Tim Thomas and Henrik Lundqvist, who have five. He ranks third in wins (18) and save percentage (.932), while coming in at second in the NHL with a 1.68 GAA.
Ilya Bryzgalov will start his second consecutive game for the Coyotes after missing five with an upper body injury. Bryz allowed three goals on the first seven shots he faced on Tuesday against Anaheim, but buckled down for the remainder of the game, saving his last 17 shots faced.
The past couple of games have seen the Coyotes at least slow the top line of their opposition. Corey Perry is the only top liner to break through against the Coyotes in the last pair of games, but they'll face a tougher test in a high-powered Kings attack.
Anze Kopitar has 14 points in his last 10 games, including five multi-point performances in his last nine, while captain Dustin Brown has 17 of his 37 points in his last 10.
They key won't be shutting down the top line as much as it will be stopping the flurry from the LA offense. They've won their last pair of games by a count of 8-1 combined, but have only scored in two periods. They scored four in the second against Anaheim on Sunday, while all four came in the third against San Jose.
Despite the offensive attack from Los Angeles, the Coyotes have to focus on getting the puck in the net. They've been held to just one goal in four consecutive games and are one of just two teams in the NHL that doesn't have a skater with more than 10 goals. The other is the New Jersey Devils. Martin Hanzal leads Phoenix with nine.
An offensive spark may come for Phoenix in the form of AHL callup Brett MacLean. The young forward was called up on Wednesday and is expected to play against the Kings, making it his NHL debut. In 32 games with the Rampage, MacLean has 31 points and 14 goals, both leading the team. Nolan Yonkman was sent down to make room for MacLean.
After start slow in Tuesday's loss, the Coyotes know what is expected of them on Wednesday. Phoenix won't return to Jobing.com Arena until 2011, when they host the Columbus Blue Jackets.