COYOTES PREPARE FOR KINGS
By: Damon Markiewicz
The Phoenix Coyotes and Los Angeles Kings will meet for the second time this preseason when they face off on Tuesday, September 30 at America West Arena. The Coyotes enter Tuesday’s game with a record of 2-1-0-1, while the Kings are 3-2-0-0.
Phoenix opened their preseason schedule against Los Angeles on Saturday, September 20 at Staples Center earning a 3-2 win. The Coyotes scored three third period goals in that contest erasing a 1-0 deficit on their way to victory. Chris Gratton, Landon Wilson and Branko Radivojevic scored for the Coyotes, while Jon Sim and Lubos Bartecko had the Los Angeles tallies. Both teams have trimmed their roster since the first meeting and Tuesday’s game is sure to have more of a regular season feel.
“The rematch will feature a few more veterans in the lineup on both sides,” said Coyotes captain Shane Doan. “The longer training camp moves along the more teams start to develop their systems. Players are still competing for jobs and the intensity level will be high.”
Special teams became a factor in the first get-together between these two Pacific Division rivals. The Coyotes penalty killing unit did a tremendous job defending all 11 Los Angeles power play opportunities, including five in the first period. Phoenix used a power play goal from Radivojevic late in the third period as the eventual game-winner. The Coyotes worked on both their power play and penalty killing during Monday’s practice at the ALLTEL Ice Den.
“Our penalty killing has been very strong during the exhibition schedule,” said head coach
Bob Francis. “The power play is progressing and we used some practice time to work on our execution. I have been impressed with the work ethic of the guys during our special team sessions.”
Tuesday night's game against the Kings will be the Coyotes first home game of the preseason after four straight on the road.
“I know the guys are really excited to finally play a game in front of our fans,” said Coyotes defenseman David Tanabe, who was acquired by the Coyotes from the Carolina Hurricanes on June 21, 2003. “The fans have been very supportive throughout training camp and it will be nice to play three games this week and build some excitement for the regular season.”
The Coyotes are coming off a 3-1 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday. The win in Vancouver came against a Canucks lineup that featured NHL all-stars Markus Naslund and Todd Bertuzzi and had a capacity crowd of 17,721 at General Motors Place. With several new faces on the training camp roster, starting the preseason with four road games maybe just what the doctor ordered for this year’s team.
“It is always nice to have a road trip early and start to bond as a team,” said Coyotes right wing Landon Wilson. “We all believe in each other in this locker room and we will stand up for one another. Due to the early road trips, guys have had the opportunity to come together as a unit and start to feel like a team.”
The Coyotes held the Canucks to just 15 shots on goal Thursday night and Phoenix has only allowed 10 goals in four games, which is tied for the Western Conference low in goals against during the preseason.
“We know we need everyone to show up and work hard each and every night,” said Wilson. “Everyone stepped up against Vancouver and played a solid hockey game. Our goaltending was great, the defensemen took care of our defensive zone and the forwards scored timely goals.”
The Coyotes have used seven different goal scorers thus far and have 16 separate players with at least one point. Brian Savage and Radivojevic lead the team in preseason goals with two and Savage leads the club in scoring with three points.
Phoenix will be competing against a Los Angeles team that has also had success during their exhibition schedule. The Kings defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-1 in their last game on Saturday night and have outscored their opponents 14-10 through five games.
Leading the offensive attack for the Kings is veteran Luc Robitaille, who is entering his 18th National Hockey League season. He is back for his third tour of duty with the Kings and leads the club in preseason coring with 3-3-6 totals in three games.
Robitaille is second on the Kings all-time scoring list with 1,079 career points in 932 games with Los Angeles. He needs 30 goals this season to tie Marcel Dionne as the Kings all-time leader in goals.
Los Angeles also possesses a lineup that includes center Jason Allison, right wing Adam Deadmarsh and right wing Zigmund Palffy. Allison and Deadmarsh haven’t played during the exhibition season, while Palffy has not registered a point in two preseason games.
TRAINING CAMP NOTES
BACK SKATING – Phoenix Coyotes right wing Landon Wilson is back skating with the team after suffering a groin strain against the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim on September 21. Wilson has one goal in two preseason games.
“I feel really good right now and each day has been better than the next,” said Wilson. “I have skated the last three days and everything seems alright. I am striving to be ready and in the lineup on Thursday night against the Mighty Ducks.”
ROSTER DOWN TO 29 – The Coyotes training camp roster currently sits at 29 players. Phoenix will conclude their preseason schedule this week with three home games at America West Arena against the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday, Mighty Ducks of Anaheim on Thursday and Vancouver Canucks on Saturday. Game time for all three contests is 7:00 PM Arizona time.
ROOKIE TOURNAMENT – The Coyotes currently have four players on their roster that were members of the Coyotes rookie team that defeated the Kings in the finals of the rookie tournament in El Segundo, California. Defenseman Matthew Spiller, right wing Fredrik Sjostrom, center Kiel McLeod and center Jeff Taffe all helped lead Phoenix to the rookie tournament championship. Taffe scored the game-winning goal in the final game assisted by Sjostrom.
The Coyotes currently have two players on the injured list that is listed as day-to-day:
Defenseman Bryan Helmer suffered a bruised shoulder against the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim on Sunday, September 21. Right wing Landon Wilson suffered a groin strain against the Mighty Ducks.