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GLENDALE, Ariz. — The slumping Los Angeles Kings need a win in the worst way. No doubt they’re hoping a matchup with the Coyotes on Friday night will prove to be a quick pathway to victory.
But the Kings — the Pacific Division leaders nearly all season until a 2-1 loss to Winnipeg on Wednesday — perhaps should heed this warning about the Coyotes from San Jose center Logan Couture.
“I think they played well (against us),” Couture said following the Sharks’ 3-1 win at Arizona on Wednesday night. “They’ve got some young players with some skill, and they’re learning how to win.”
The Coyotes (5-16-3), despite a record that’s disparagingly one-sided because of their season-opening 11-game winless streak, showed that by winning at Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto in succession before returning home to lose to San Jose. Arizona is 1-7-1 at Gila River Arena.
That winning streak is one reason why coach Rick Tocchet was clearly disappointed with the loss to the Sharks, a team he felt didn’t outplay his Coyotes but, rather, outlasted them.
“I think we had more grade-A chances (than they did),” Tocchet said. “We had some guys who didn’t have juice. We have three or four guys we count on that didn’t have any juice, I could tell.”
The Coyotes need to get their energy back before continuing a challenging holiday week schedule of three home games in four nights, one that concludes Saturday night against the division-leading Vegas Golden Knights.
Despite the Coyotes’ busy schedule, Tocchet held a practice Thursday on Thanksgiving, probably a sign he wasn’t happy with the way his team played the night before.
They’ve got the young legs to bounce back; left wing Brendan Perlini’s goal Wednesday was the 33rd this season by a Coyotes player who is 22 or younger. That’s more than half of their 58 goals.
But the Coyotes experienced a setback of a different kind when goaltender Antti Raanta, coming off those three straight wins, was pulled late in the first period Wednesday with an upper-body injury. He missed 10 games earlier in the season with lower-body injuries, and was pulled from two others.
In an indication that Raanta probably won’t play Friday, goaltender Marek Langhamer was recalled Thursday from Tucson (AHL) on an emergency basis. Langhamer has played in only one NHL game during his career, against Anaheim last season.
“It’s next man up,” said Coyotes center Derek Stepan, who has a point in four consecutive games. “In this league you need two goalies, your starter and your backup.”
Backup goaltender Scott Wedgewood came in to allow a Joe Thornton goal five seconds after replacing Raanta, but otherwise held San Jose to only one other goal, by Couture on a setup by Joonas Donskoi in the second period.
Kings goalie Jonathan Quick is healthy but, in a turnaround for him, not winning. He’s currently stuck in the first six-game losing streak of his career in which every loss was in regulation. Of course, he’s not getting much help — the Kings, who started 11-2-2 but have since lost six of seven, scored only nine goals in those six losses.
Los Angeles got 25 saves from Quick and a team-leading 10th goal from center Tyler Toffoli against Winnipeg, only to lose after twice giving up goals in the final minute of a period — to Adam Lowry with eight seconds left in the first and to Patrik Laine with 59 seconds remaining in the second.
“We’re giving up goals we don’t normally give up,” team captain Anze Kopitar said after the Kings lost despite a 39-27 edge in shots. “Its deflating. You go into the locker room thinking about that. You kill all the momentum you have going for you.”
Kings coach John Stevens may have summed up perfectly the current situation for both his team and the Coyotes: “The bottom line is you’ve got to find ways to win hockey games. … You’ve got to bear down to score and you’ve got to bear down to deny opportunities. Sometimes it’s a fine line between winning and losing.”
The two teams have yet to play this season. The Coyotes won three of five from Los Angeles last season, including the final three.