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Kings, Coyotes hoping to avoid Pacific Division basement

By Alan Ferguson

Stats Writer

Los Angeles (31-34-11) at Phoenix (33-37-7) 10:00 p.m. EDT

GLENDALE, Arizona (AP) -- Los Angeles will likely soon join

Phoenix among the Western Conference teams eliminated from

playoff contention, but the Kings still have a chance to beat

out the Coyotes for last place in the Pacific Division.

With the teams tied at 73 points, the Kings will try to avoid

heading toward a second straight last-place showing in the

Pacific with a home-and-home series that begins Thursday night

at Jobing.com Arena.

Barring a late winning streak or a collapse by third-place

Dallas, the Kings and Coyotes will battle to stay out of last in

the Pacific for the fourth straight season. Los Angeles has

finished fourth in the division in two of the last three

seasons, but was last in 2007-08.

With a 2-6-2 mark in their last 10, the Kings appear headed

toward the basement again. After closing out a season-high,

six-game road trip with a shootout win and overtime loss, Los

Angeles was flat in its return home Tuesday and fell 3-2 to the

Stars.

Los Angeles allowed Dallas to take a two-goal lead at the end of

the second period and didn't respond until Anze Kopitar scored

with 1:31 remaining.

"When you come off a long road trip, it always seems that you

have a tough time getting into it in the first game at home,"

Kings right wing Justin Williams said. "But at this level of the

game, it's unacceptable for us to have a performance like that.

It's ugly, it stinks, and it won't happen again."

The Kings have been without leading goal scorer Alexander

Frolov, who has missed four games with a lower body injury, and

Jarret Stoll has sat out the last two with an ailing groin.

Defenseman Kyle Quincey is expected to miss the rest of the

season while recovering from surgery for a herniated disc.

The Coyotes, meanwhile, earned their second straight victory

Wednesday - 3-0 over Colorado - and are looking to match their

season's longest win streak.

Al Montoya, the NHL's first Cuban-American, made 23 saves to get

the shutout in his first NHL game, and lead Phoenix to its fifth

win in eight games.

"I thought early in the game he made a couple of key saves. It

was a real solid effort for a guy playing his first NHL game,"

Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky said. "Good for him. Hopefully this

is something good to go from here."

Phoenix will miss the playoffs for a sixth consecutive season,

but the Coyotes are looking for their 10th win in 13 meetings

with Los Angeles.

Phoenix has taken three of four this season but suffered a 4-0

loss in its previous home game against the Kings on December 27.

Shane Doan has scored in consecutive games and needs one more

goal to pass his career-high of 30 set in 2005-06. Doan, who

also leads Phoenix with 68 points, has seven goals and seven

assists in the last 12 contests.

The teams play again Saturday in Los Angeles.

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