Good afternoon, Insiders. Say, did you know there’s another game today? At Staples Center, even? The Kings will take part in their first all-home back-to-back set since December 5 and 6, 2015, when they defeated Pittsburgh 5-3 on a Saturday afternoon before coming back to work Sunday night and beating Tampa Bay 3-1. Tonight the Arizona Coyotes will set up shop in downtown Los Angeles for the second time this season (7:30 p.m. / FOX Sports West / FOX Sports GO / KABC 790 / I Heart Radio) and the teams’ fourth match-up overall. The Kings are 2-1-0 against the Coyotes thus far.
-As expected, Los Angeles did not hold a full-team morning skate. Jonathan Quick was the only goaltender to participate, but given that Ben Bishop was acquired to play in important late-season games as part of the desire to maintain Quick’s long-term health, it’s not exactly going out on a limb to assume that the newcomer will take over the reins in net tonight.
-Kevin Gravel skated for the third consecutive day after weathering a hit from Kevin Shattenkirk that resulted in the Washington defenseman being handed down a two-game suspension by the Department of Player Safety. Gravel, who absorbed the hit with the front of his face, was caught off-guard from the hit and dealt with watery eyes and a runny nose in its aftermath but didn’t lose any teeth or suffer any upper-body injury. He’s fine, and the reason he didn’t play in last night’s game appears to be based on a coach’s decision. The hit was an uncharacteristic play by Shattenkirk, who had no previous priors and in conversations with LA Kings Insider over the past five years has repeatedly proven himself to be A Good Guy In Hockey. But it was certainly a bad hit, which he owned up to earlier today. “I made a bad read on it,” he said, as reported by Jesse Dougherty, a former LA Times Kings beat writer who now writes for the Washington Post. “I thought he was going to come in at a different angle and I would have a cleaner hit and he went another route and it’s on me at that point to adjust or slow up and not make that hit. More than anything I’m fortunate that he’s not out for a long period of time, or not out at all.”
-Jordan Nolan took the ice in a red jersey at the conclusion of the morning skate. He said it was his first time getting on the ice since suffering an apparent lower-body injury while getting tangled up in a leg-on-leg collision with Anaheim’s Korbinian Holzer on February 25. Interestingly, Darryl Sutter indicated early last week that Nick Shore, who suffered an upper-body injury on March 2 against Toronto, was closer to returning than Nolan, but Shore hasn’t been spotted on the ice at Toyota Sports Center since his injury.
-Oh, that’s good: Arizona, tonight’s opponent, has scored first in each of the last six games. Los Angeles has surrendered the first goal in 40 of 68 games this season. The Coyotes defeated the Avalanche 1-0 at Gila River Arena last night as Mike Smith notched his 22nd shutout with the organization, moving past Ilya Bryzgalov and Nikolai Khabibulin for the most shutouts in franchise history. Though Smith wasn’t as tested as Calvin Pickard at the other end, Arizona will turn to Louis Domingue in net. Brendan Perlini has goals in three straight games, while Los Angeles will have to figure out a way to shut down underrated checking center Jordan Martinook, who has three goals and five points in three head-to-head games this season and eight points in eight career games against the Kings. Though 25-35-8 on the season, Arizona has been a .500 points percentage team since January 21.
-Darryl Sutter took the option again, so the next story will focus on the team’s need to move past last night’s loss with 14 games remaining. Before we go any farther: The game notes say that Pia Toscano will sing the national anthem, while Dean Morton and Dan O’Halloran will serve as tonight’s referees. Linesmen are Lonnie Cameron and Scott Cherrey. Let’s talk soon, Insiders.