Coyotes welcome Kings with eye on wild card

Field Level Media

The Arizona Coyotes haven't been to the Stanley Cup Playoffs since the 2011-12 season. They haven't even experienced a playoff race this far into March since 2014.

But they're in the thick of a postseason battle with a month to go, and Saturday evening they'll try to pick up two more points when they host the Los Angeles Kings.

The Coyotes entered Friday three points behind the Minnesota Wild for the second wild card from the Western Conference, and four points behind the Dallas Stars for the first wild card.

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Arizona has won seven of its past eight games and is 10-3-0 dating back to a 3-2 win against the Stars on Feb. 9, keeping the Coyotes in the hunt.

"You can't have a bad week," Arizona coach Rick Tocchet told reporters after a 2-0 win against the visiting Calgary Flames on Thursday. "You might be able to have a bad day once in a while, but you can't have a bad week."

The Kings haven't had a good season, leaving them on pace to finish with less than 30 wins in an 82-game season for the first time since 2006-07.

They defeated the visiting Coyotes 2-1 on Dec. 27 for their fourth straight win at the time, their longest winning streak of the season. But they have not maintained the momentum and enter Saturday with a 1-8-4 mark since Feb. 9.

Los Angeles has scored one goal in its past two games, a 3-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday and a 4-0 loss against the St. Louis Blues on Thursday. St. Louis was playing its second road game in two nights.

"I think we're playing a little too individual right now," Kings veteran forward Kyle Clifford told the media. "You want to be creative and be able to make plays, but at the same time you need support from all other four guys on the ice. It can't just be a one-man show out there."

The Coyotes received a big boost on Thursday when forward Michael Grabner returned to the lineup after missing 41 games with an eye injury, which was caused by a high stick against the Blues on Dec. 1.

Grabner didn't produced any points against the Flames, but led the forwards with five shots on goal and 17:40 of ice time.

"I'm proud of these guys and the way they battled since I've been out," Grabner said. "It's nice to join them and, hopefully, I can contribute and help them get us in the playoffs."

Grabner was off to a slow start in his first season with Arizona, totaling six goals and five assists in 26 games, but his speed provides another element for opponents to worry about.

"Even when he's not on the ice, (opponents) are a little nervous that he might be zipping behind them," Arizona general manager John Chayka said.

Arizona held the second wild card spot with eight games to go in the 2013-14 season, then went 1-4-3 down the stretch to finish two points behind the Stars for the final wild card.

Tocchet wasn't coaching at the time, but knows there's still a tough road ahead for the Coyotes.

"Minnesota is playing really well. Their goalie is phenomenal," Tocchet said. "Dallas is putting some wins together, so we've just got to keep winning, that's it."

--Field Level Media

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