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Hockey

Jeff Carter and Kings have the hot hand in win over Coyotes

The hands of Jeff Carter finally wrested the Kings free from the odd grip of the Arizona Coyotes.

The Kings have traditionally had difficulties with Arizona, and Thursday they followed script. They found themselves locked into a tie game late with the pesky, last-place Coyotes. Not even two goals by Carter, in his 900th game, were enough, through 55 minutes. It took his ripped shot from the left circle with less than five minutes remaining to complete a natural hat trick for a 4-2 win at Staples Center.

The Kings will ride into a divisional showdown Friday against the Ducks with their first back-to-back wins since March 1, and Carter’s heroics. The veteran has 13 goals in 17 games since he returned from a leg injury.

“I’m happy,” Carter said. “One of my roles on this team is to provide offense, so if I can keep putting it in the net, that’s a good thing.”

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Arizona, which beat the Kings twice this season, showed fight on the last stop of a six-game trip that began on the East Coast. But it didn’t have an answer for Carter, who got his sixth career hat trick and first since 2013, against the Nashville Predators.

“He creates matchup problems for other teams,” Dustin Brown said. “When you have [a second-line center] who could be a [first-line center] on most teams, it makes it a tough matchup — on faceoffs, all the little things he does. Tonight he did what he’s known for. He’s been a big lift for us.”

The Kings faced former teammate Darcy Kuemper for the first time since Kuemper was traded to Arizona last month. But Kuemper and his 3-1-2 record against the Kings couldn’t do much on Carter’s first two goals, both score-tying strikes that pushed momentum to the Kings’ side.

Carter redirected Dion Phaneuf’s shot on the power play and the puck skipped over Kuemper’s right pad for a 2-2 tie in the second period. Carter injected life into the Kings with an equally adept deflection on Derek Forbort’s shot 28 seconds before the first intermission, as Coyotes defenseman Kevin Connauton tried to get him out of the slot.

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Arizona was game from the start. It buzzed in the Kings’ end most of the first period and it paid off with Connauton’s goal, a snapped shot off a long diagonal pass from Max Domi. The Coyotes took a 2-1 lead early in the second period when Domi backhanded a wobbly puck over Jack Campbell’s shoulder.

Phaneuf was put on the first power-play unit in the wake of injured Jake Muzzin, while Kevin Gravel played his first game since Feb. 7 and played on the second unit. Muzzin won’t be available Friday, either.

It will be the most the Kings and Ducks will have on the line this late in the season since they played in the 2014 playoffs.

“We got to start preparing now,” Carter said. “It will be another level [Friday].”

Kings land Brickley

The Kings agreed to terms with sought-after defenseman Daniel Brickley, regarded as the top college free agent following his junior season at Minnesota State.

General manager Rob Blake said that Brickley will be with the Kings the remainder of the season, following a news conference Friday in Salt Lake City, but he is not expected to play. He will sign a two-year entry-level contract, according to TSN.

The 6-foot-3, 203-pound Brickley is known as a good passer with offensive instincts who is still growing into his game. He had 10 goals and 35 points in 40 games this season. He played for the U.S. in last year’s World Championships.

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The Kings also announced the signing of forward Mikey Eyssimont to a two-year entry-level contract. Eyssimont, a fifth-round draft pick in 2016, had 17 goals and 22 assists in 39 games with St. Cloud State, the top overall seed in the NCAA tournament before it was eliminated.

TONIGHT

VS. DUCKS

When: 7 p.m. Friday.

On the air: TV: Ch.13; Radio, 790, 830

Update: John Gibson backstopped the Ducks to wins against the Kings in the previous two matchups. Jonathan Quick is expected to go back in net for the Kings, who are 7-3-3 in the second game of back-to-back situations, including 1-1 against the Ducks in that scenario this season.

curtis.zupke@latimes.com

Twitter: @curtiszupke

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