As the Los Angeles Kings look over the faces on the Phoenix Coyotes’ bench, they will see two things. First they will see the Western Conference’s second best team. This will be but a fleeting image.
The lasting picture in their minds will be a much harsher one, the visage of humiliation.
The Kings lost their season opener to the Coyotes in a performance so awful, one would have thought TWA had been resurrected to sponsor the game. To their credit, the Kings were only the first of several teams to be shocked and awed in submission by the surging Coyotes. Bankrupt only in funds, the Coyotes boast the NHL’s best defense, giving up only 1.50 goals per game (a whole half goal better than Buffalo, the next best defense). Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov deserves a large chunk of the credit for the Coyotes’ (6-2-0) fast start as he holds the best numbers for a starting goalie with a goals against average of 1.26 and a staggering .949 save percentage.
If Anze Kopitar, fresh of his first career 3 goal performance that put him atop NHL scoring alongside some Russian guy name Ovechkin, has any say in the matter, Bryzgalov’s numbers will be considerably higher by the end of tonight’s game.
This game means more than just points in the standings. This game is about redemption. The Coyotes have had the Kings ‘number’ for several years now, but the season opener set a new precedent, one the Kings hope to wipe clean. Tonight will be as much a physical battle for the Kings as it will be psychological.
The Coyotes are fast, skilled and unrelenting. The Kings will not let the Coyotes speed take them by surprise again, and if they are smart, will counter it with a punishing physical game. Thursday’s game against the Dallas Stars was one of the first in which Dustin Brown frequently looked to rack up his brain-cell kill-count with devastating open ice hits. He will need to build on that tonight. A few well placed hits from Brown early on will go a long way towards making the Coyote’s young forwards think twice about carelessly waltzing through the neutral zone.
Making his NHL debut tonight will be LW Scott Parse, an all but forgotten prospect, who has a score of his own to settle. Terry Murray did not play Parse in any preseason games as he was openly critical of the 25-year-old’s lack of offensive flair in training camp. Parse will play on a line with Jarret Stoll and Teddy Purcell. Parse leads the Manchester Monarchs in scoring with 2 goals and 9 assists in 7 games, also good for second in overall AHL scoring. Trevor Lewis will be a healthy scratch for the sixth time this season.
The puck drops at the Jobing.com arena at 6pm PST.