After a dismal start to the season — losing their first 11 games to kick off the campaign and with just one victory in 15 outings — the Arizona Coyotes finally have some good news.
As the Coyotes travel to face the suddenly struggling Los Angeles Kings on Sunday, it’s one night after claiming their third victory of the season, and second in three outings, with a 2-1 overtime win over the Detroit Red Wings that was decided after a third-period comeback.
The positive momentum is noticeable for the Coyotes, who still remain last in the league standings.
“We’re starting to figure some things out,” said forward Clayton Keller, who scored the overtime winner over the Red Wings. “We’re sharper in the defensive zone. It’s a great group in that locker room, a great coaching staff, they all want us to succeed.”
Added coach Andre Tourigny: “We’re playing much better and have more confidence. We still have to battle really hard every day, and we do. We have a group that doesn’t mind the work. It’s more fun when you get the results.”
One key has been the play of goaltender Scott Wedgewood. Since he was claimed off waivers from the New Jersey Devils on Nov. 4, Wedgewood has posted a 3-1-1 record with 9.40 save percentage and 2.04 goals-against average.
“I’m just happy to be a part of it,” Wedgewood said. “The group’s got some confidence right now, we’re getting some points, which is huge for this team. I’m enjoying it. It’s been feeling like home the last two weeks.”
The Kings return to action after dropping a 5-4 clash with the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday. They have lost three straight since their seven-game winning streak.
The high-scoring defeat at the hands of the Hurricanes is not at all what the Kings want in their games.
“I think our team is built to win maybe more of a 3-2 type, tight-checking game,” forward Blake Lizotte said. “It was a little too loose for us, racehorse hockey, trading chances back and forth and that’s not typically our identity. Moving forward, we need to get back to our identity and play a little bit more tight-checking.”
A greater commitment to defensive play and better coverage will be front and center against the Coyotes.
“We’ll look at the chances that we created and those would obviously be positive, and then what can we clean up,” coach Todd McLellan said. “There’s some careless pinches, lack of cover, we got beat with speed a little bit and a lot of that was backend reads more than the forwards. We’ll talk with the defensemen a little bit and try to fix things there. It will also be to cleanse and move on.”
Losing a game is one thing, but losing a game in which a team scores four times makes it more disappointing.
“There’s situations that we can play better defensively. I’m happy that we had the offense we had, and there could have been more,” McLellan said. “Again, with the two-on-ones and not even getting a shot on goal … there could have been more. That’s the positive, the offense is there. Line combinations, whether they worked or not, maybe we found something. The negative is we got away from who we are and what we do well.”
–Field Level Media