LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Kings play a pivotal game for their postseason chances against the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday night at Staples Center.
The Kings (42-28-7) play the front end of a Pacific Division back-to-back set against a pesky Arizona team that has been a thorn in their side this season.
Though the Coyotes (27-39-11) are in the Pacific Division cellar http://www.dolphinsauthorizedshops.com/authentic-minkah-fitzpatrick-jersey , Los Angeles has lost two of the first three games (1-0-2) of the season series, the most recent a 4-3 shootout loss in Arizona on March 13. The win was the lone NHL victory for goaltender Adin Hill, who stopped 34 of 37 shots and 4 of 5 shootout attempts.
The Kings are third in the Pacific Division and the importance of winning this game is magnified with the Ducks on the docket Friday night in Anaheim. Los Angeles and Anaheim are tied with 91 points but the Kings maintain the third and final automatic Pacific Division postseason qualifier because it has more regulation and overtime victories.
Los Angeles coach John Stevens noted that he expects playoff-level intensity from the Coyotes, who have played well despite competing in games of no postseason consequence to them. He cites their improving goaltending situation and a key to being more competitive.
“I’d say the last 20 games, Arizona is one of the best teams in the league,” Stevens said. “Give them credit. They’ve stuck with it. They’ve really got their team to buy in to the way they want to play.
“They have finally solidified their goaltending, which has been an issue all year, with a lot of it due to injury. But with Antti Raanta and Darcy Kuemper (a former King acquired at the Feb. 27 trade deadline) they are very capable.”
The Kings enter the game down a significant player as defenseman Jake Muzzin left Los Angeles’ 3-0 win over Calgary on Monday with an upper-body injury which has him listed as week-to-week. Rookie Kevin Gravel will likely draw in on the third pair alongside Christian Folin.
Stevens does not name his starting goaltender prior to games and with the Kings facing a back-to-back, the question is if he will start Jonathan Quick in both contests or have rookie goaltender Jack Campbell take one of the starts.
Campbell has played well since being recalled from the the AHL on Feb. 22. He has not lost a game in regulation in four starts, registering a 1-0-2 record with 2.61 goals-against average and .927 save percentage.
The Coyotes won their second straight road game against a first-place team, defeating the Pacific Division-leading Vegas Golden Knights 3-2 on Wednesday night. Arizona defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-1 on Monday and then flew across country to win the penultimate contest of its six-game road trip.
Kevin Connauton scored two goals and Antti Raanta stopped 27 of 29 shots in the Coyotes’ first win against Vegas this season (1-2-2).
“We played a pretty complete game http://www.brownsauthorizedshops.com/authentic-denzel-ward-jersey ,” Connauton said. “After the first two periods we were happy with where we were as a team. We stuck to our system and kept it simple, we weren’t making the risky plays that we do went we don’t get the results in game we want. It was a full 60 minutes.”
Clayton Keller registered an assist to extend his personal career high and Coyotes rookie record point streak to 10 games (five goals, nine assists). He is one of eight players in franchise history to record a streak of 10 games or more.
Kuemper could get the call between the pipes for the Coyotes and could have extra motivation facing the team that traded him Feb. 21. Kuemper was acquired from Los Angeles in exchange for forward Tobias Rieder and goaltender Scott Wedgewood. Kuemper has a lifetime 3-1-2 record against the Kings in seven games with a 2.33 GAA and .924 save percentage.
Rookie Colin Moran isn’t big on showing emotion, so he took it in stride after hitting his second grand slam of the season.
Manager Clint Hurdle, though, put the feat in perspective.
”Two grand slams in a year is pretty cool. Some guys don’t hit one their whole career,” Hurdle said after Moran’s slam helped carry the Pirates to a 7-5 victory against the San Diego Padres on Sunday. ”In his rookie season, too. He hunts pitches. He’s got a lot of confidence when he goes to the plate. He prepares.”
In fact, none of Hurdle’s 32 home runs over a 10-year career came with the bases loaded.
Corey Dickerson and Elias Diaz also homered for the Pirates, who took two of three games.
Moran connected off Tyson Ross with two outs in the fifth to put the Pirates ahead 6-3. He also hit a grand slam in the home opener on April 2, a 5-4 victory against Minnesota.
Ross http://www.cardinalsauthorizedshops.com/authentic-mason-cole-jersey , who singled and then had his first career stolen base a half inning earlier, faltered with two outs in the fifth. Austin Meadows doubled, Josh Bell walked and Josh Harrison beat out an infield single to load the bases. Moran then drove a 1-0 pitch to right for his eighth homer.
”It’s cool,” Moran said of hitting two slams in one season. ”But I guess it was just kind of nice to get some runs in there and get us the lead, so that was the biggest thing.”
The only other rookie in Pirates history to hit two grand slams in a season was Wally Westlake in 1947. Moran was the first Pirates player with two grand slams in a season since Jose Bautista in 2006.
”Those are cool things,” Hurdle said. ”They don’t happen for everybody. They don’t happen to many guys whatsoever. It goes back to preparation, opportunity and then production, and he’s been able to pull that off. … He’s ready to hit. He knows what he’s hunting to hit.”
Moran made his big league debut with Houston in 2016, appearing in nine games. He appeared in seven games with Houston last season before being sent to Pittsburgh along with Joe Musgrove and two other players in the deal for Gerrit Cole. Moran had 34 big league at-bats coming into this season.
”He’s one of the calmest people I’ve ever played with,” Dickerson said. ”He just has no emotion. He has a good plan. He does the same thing every day. You don’t ever change stuff up. He’s very simple. Simple sometimes is the best in great moments like that. He came through.”
Dickerson homered in the second, his sixth http://www.dolphinsauthorizedshops.com/authentic-durham-smythe-jersey , and Diaz homered leading off the sixth, his sixth.
The Padres closed to 7-5 on Wil Myers’ infield RBI single with one out in the sixth and then loaded the bases on Eric Hosmer’s walk. But Steven Brault got Hunter Renfroe to hit a flyball to right that wasn’t deep enough to bring in Jose Pirela, and Kyle Crick struck out pinch-hitter Christian Villanueva.
Crick (1-1) pitched 1 1-3 innings for the win. Felipe Vazquez pitched the ninth for his 17th save.
Ross (5-6), who has been mentioned in trade rumors, was chased by Diaz’s homer. Ross had his worst start of the season, allowing seven runs and seven hits, with three walks and no strikeouts.
”I didn’t throw the ball particularly well,” Ross said. ”I could’ve been a lot better with two outs and two strikes. That’s kind of where I really got myself into trouble.
”That big fifth inning, had two strikes on Meadows and two outs, and double to left and then everything kind of unfolded from there. Days like this happen. I still had a chance to win that game, just wasn’t able to put hitters away when I had two-strike counts.”
Said manager Andy Green: ”You’ve got two outs and nobody on and Tyson on the mound John Tavares Maple Leafs Jersey , you kind of like that situation right there. Next thing you know, bases are loaded and one pitch is hit out of the ball park, and that kind of changes the trajectory of the game. It’s a frustrating one.”
Pirates starter Jameson Taillon went 4 2-3 innings, allowing four runs, three earned, and seven hits while striking out four and walking three. He got the first two outs of the fifth before allowing Renfroe’s homer to left, his fifth, that pulled the Padres to 6-4. Taillon allowed singles to Cory Spangenberg and Carlos Asuaje before making way for Edgar Santana, who struck out Freddy Galvis.
Ross hit a sacrifice fly that gave the Padres a 2-1 lead in the second. He singled with two outs in the fourth and then got the first stolen base of his career. He was stranded when Manuel Margot grounded out.
Renfroe also hit an RBI double in the third.
The Padres agreed to terms with LHP Ryan Weathers, their first-round selection, seventh overall Manny Pina Milwaukee Brewers Jersey , in June’s amateur draft. He is the son of former big league pitcher David Weathers.
Pirates: RHP Nick Kingham (2-3, 3.82) is expected to be recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis to start Monday night’s opener of a three-game series at the Los Angeles Dodgers, who will counter with LHP Alex Wood (4-5, 4.00).
Padres: LHP Clayton Richard (7-7, 4.29) is scheduled to start Tuesday night’s opener of a two-game series at Oakland, which counters with RHP Chris Bassitt (1-3, 2.82).