LOS ANGELES --The Los Angeles Kings exit their weeklong bye Thursday against the visiting Arizona Coyotes still on the bubble of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference standings and with a third of the regular season still remaining.
The Kings have played nine of their last 10 games on the road, with their lone home game in the last four weeks a 5-0 victory against the Colorado Avalanche on Feb. 1. Los Angeles entered the break on a positive note, beating the Florida Panthers 6-3 on Feb. 9 after getting outscored by a combined 10-0 in the previous two games.
"We played nine out of 10 on the road and we came out 6-4," Kings coach Darryl Sutter told the team's website before the break. "Counting the game in California, we played in nine states, so we'll take that. It doesn't matter if there's a break or not. Our team needs a break and deserves a break."
Kings goaltender Peter Budaj gave up a nine goals in the three most recent games, but has been otherwise solid in relief of Jonathan Quick, who has been out since suffering a lower-body injury in the season opener. Budaj owns a 2.11 goals-against average, a .917 save percentage and has a league-leading seven shutouts, numbers Quick put up in just one season, 2011-2012.
Jeff Carter hasn't been as much of a surprise as Budaj, but has been just as important to the success of the Kings this season. Carter has 29 goals, putting him well on pace for the second 40-goal season of his career.
On the other end of the spectrum, King center Anze Kopitar is stuck on six goals, putting him on pace to finish in single digits for the first time in his 11-year career.
The Coyotes missed a chance to extend their season-long point streak to five games when they lost to Edmonton 5-2 on Tuesday night, putting them at 6-3-1 over the last 10 games.
Phoenix forward Martin Hanzal has four goals in the last three games, a feat the 10-year veteran hasn't accomplished since scoring an empty-netter in a 4-2 victory against the Kings in Dec. 2, 2008, followed by his first career hat trick two days later against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Hanzal had his other two-goal game of the season in a 4-3 loss to the visiting Kings on Dec. 1.
"Trying to play hard," Hanzal told the Arizona Republic following the Edmonton game. "I've been lucky a couple times. Puck's going in for me, which is great, but I'd rather take two points for the team."
The Kings recalled rookie forward Adrian Kempe on Tuesday and he's expected to make his NHL debut against Phoenix. He was the team's first-round pick in 2014 and has spent two seasons with Ontario of the American Hockey League, totaling 11 goals and eight assists in 43 games this season.
Jordan Nolan, who was placed on injured reserve retroactive to Feb. 1 with a lower-body injury, has just four goals on the season, but three have come in a pair of one-goal victories against Arizona this season.
Kings host Coyotes in return from break
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