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Posted On Wednesday, 05.09.2012 / 5:47 PM

By Jerry Brown -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Kings series blog

Whitney a reluctant birthday boy

GLENDALE, Ariz, -- Ray Whitney turned 40 years old on Tuesday and thought he might have escaped the wrath of his teammates since it was an off-day for the Coyotes.

No chance. His locker was dressed up with presents on Wednesday, including a walker -- adorned with a blue bow -- tubes of Ben Gay and denture cream, laxative, batteries and a magnifying glass with which to read the latest copy of Oprah Winfrey's "O" Magazine.

Whitney, who will dodge any camera possible even on most normal days, had no interest in coming out to view the display while media was in the room. But his teammates didn't mind commenting -- especially suspected ringleader Shane Doan.

"I'm way young younger than a few people on this team -- and Ray Whitney is way older than everyone else," the 35-year-old Doan was only too happy to point out, "We fixed him up with a 40-year-old survival kit just to make sure he has everything working."

Whitney had everything working during the regular season, leading the Coyotes in assists (53) and points (77) while pumping in 24 goals. He's added six points in 13 playoff games -- showing he's not quite ready for a walker.

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Posted On Wednesday, 05.09.2012 / 5:10 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Kings series blog

Kings getting contributions up and down lineup

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals saw Los Angeles Kings rookie defenseman Slava Voynov and veteran blueliner Matt Greene each score his first career playoff goal.

Game 3 saw rookie Dwight King pot his first playoff goal. Game 4? King's rookie roommate, Jordan Nolan, snapped home a loose puck for his first playoff goal.

Fifteen of 18 skaters have scored a goal for L.A. in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and 17 have recorded a point. The team's third and fourth lines have scored six goals. In other words, it's precisely the dynamic of championship teams.

"I think you look at lines three and four -- everybody's outscoring their opposition," Justin Williams said.

"Our third line has scored more than their line. Our fourth line has scored more than their fourth line. We're going to need solid contributions from everybody. That's what playoffs is. Sometimes if there's a couple of lines, they offset each other and it's the so-called unsung heroes who get the stuff done."

Williams and a handful of other Kings players that have won the Stanley Cup would know, having been on teams that got scoring depth throughout the lineup.

It's not just the forwards. Greene, who had four goals and 15 points in 82 regular season games, has one goal and four points in nine playoff games. He had more points (four) in the semifinal series victory against St. Louis than Blues winger Andy McDonald (three).

Willie Mitchell has a goal and an assist, and of course Drew Doughty leads the defensemen with one goal and six assists, including a three-point game in Game 4 against St. Louis. The only player that hasn't recorded a point is Colin Fraser.

"The other team can't just say, 'Well, if we shut down the top two lines we have a good chance of winning' because we have two other lines that score," Penner said. "But for us, if all four lines that can score, we've got D that can score … that's what you need to go deep in the playoffs, is contributions from every position."

If there's any surprise to the offensive output, it's that of Nolan and King, who were recalled from the American Hockey League on Feb.10. Both were brought up for their size -- Nolan is 6-foot-3, 227 pounds and King is 6-3, 234 -- and they weren't necessarily depended on for scoring.

But both have chipped in, in a fourth-line role for Nolan and a second- and third-line role for King. Nolan is the son of former NHL head coach Ted Nolan, while King is brothers with NHL forward D.J. King.

Sutter said he wasn't surprised at how they've adjusted to playoff-level hockey.

"They have handled it really well," Sutter said. "The best part about those two kids is probably their background. As we've gone along we've had to manage their minutes, obviously, because there is a more intense environment, but they've done a good job of giving us those minutes."

King and Nolan are still living in a hotel near the team's practice facility. Nolan is doing the cooking, although King said "we've been going out more" recently.

Penner said he's been impressed by their maturity and that it hasn't gone unnoticed in the dressing room.

"I think there's a sense of pride for the older guys watching the young guy come along that quickly, and buy in and appreciate where they are now," Penner said. "They've earned their keep."
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Posted On Wednesday, 05.09.2012 / 5:08 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Kings series blog

Former teammates on Cup champ are now rivals

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- One of the connections between the Kings and the Coyotes is that Los Angeles forward Justin Williams played with Phoenix forward Ray Whitney on the 2006 Carolina Hurricanes team that beat the Edmonton Oilers for the Stanley Cup.

Asked what he remembered about Whitney, Williams said, "He wasn't 40 -- putting up a lot of points as he is right now. But he was a big part of our team in '06, and certainly a huge part of their team right now. He's going to demand a lot of our attention. We're going to have to be hard on him, because he's a guy that can certainly have an impact on the series."

Whitney has two goals, including one game-winner, and six points in the playoffs.
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Posted On Wednesday, 05.09.2012 / 5:02 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Kings series blog

Coyotes present familiar challenge for Kings

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The Western Conference Semifinals were supposed to be a clash of similar styles with the Los Angeles Kings and St. Louis Blues both based on defense, goaltending and physical play.

The Phoenix Coyotes present more of the same, although there might be more even-strength play between the teams considering that the Coyotes average the fourth-fewest penalty minutes per game (9.5). They also entered Wednesday with the second-most five-on-five goals (22).

One aspect is that the teams have not played since Feb. 21, and the Kings know the Coyotes have since changed.

"They're very similar to us in the way that they play from a structure standpoint -- strong defense, strong goaltending," Brown said.

"The game plan is no secret that we need to get in on the forecheck. It's going to be the same as playing St. Louis … maybe we exposed St. Louis' goaltending a little bit, but at this time of year, it's about hard work, getting on the forecheck, making it hard on their guys that play a lot of minutes. [Oliver] Ekman-Larsson plays 30 minutes a game. It's important for us to get on him. We have to wear on guys like that throughout the series, and the other guy we got to really make it hard on is Mike Smith."
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Posted On Tuesday, 05.08.2012 / 5:50 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Kings series blog

Big day for two Nolans

EL SEGINDO, Calif. -- Kings rookie Jordan Nolan scored his first career playoff goal Sunday. On the other side of the globe his father, Ted, coached Latvia to a 3-2 victory over Germany in the World Championship in Stockholm.

Jordan Nolan said his father was able to call him at about 10 p.m. Pacific Time on Sunday night, and his father gave him the message of "Congratulations. You're working hard out there. Keep it up,'" Jordan Nolan said.

Jordan Nolan gave L.A. a 1-0 lead in Game 4 by snapping home a loose puck near the inside edge of the right circle. It was only his third goal since he was recalled from Manchester of the AHL on Feb. 10.

"A lot of excitement," Jordan Nolan said. "I didn't want to celebrate too much, though."

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Posted On Tuesday, 05.08.2012 / 3:18 PM

By Tal Pinchevsky -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Kings series blog

Experience at a premium in West

With longtime western powers Detroit, Vancouver, and San Jose dispatched in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it's no wonder the last two teams standing in the Western Conference don't have a great deal of experience playing in the Stanley Cup Final.

While the Kings have little real playoff experience on their roster, there are a couple of notable vets leading the charge. Particularly Rob Scuderi, who won the Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh in 2009, and Dustin Penner, who won it with Anaheim in 2007. There's also Justin Williams, who won the Cup with Carolina in 2006, one of seven players on the Kings' active roster who have played in the Stanley Cup Final (Mike Richards and Jeff Carter made it in 2010 when Philadelphia lost to Chicago while Jarret Stoll and Matt Greene appeared with Edmonton in 2006). That's a wealth of experience compared to the Coyotes.

Ray Whitney is the only member of the Coyotes roster to have won the Stanley Cup, having done it alongside Williams in 2006. After him, only Antoine Vermette and Raffi Torres, who is out for the series after being suspended for his hit on Marian Hossa, have played in the final. In years past, that experience may have come from assistant coach Ulf Samuelsson, who won a pair of Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins. But Samuelsson left the Coyotes after last season to go become head coach of Sweden's fabled Modo club.

Whichever team does ultimately make it to the Final, they'll certainly be adding plenty of valuable experience to their roster.
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Posted On Tuesday, 05.08.2012 / 1:56 PM

By Tal Pinchevsky -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Kings series blog

Exciting season series bodes well for conference final

Every season series between division rivals is a hard-fought six-game standoff. But this past season's games between Phoenix and Los Angeles were so closely matched that it could serve as an exciting preview for a potentially explosive Western Conference Final.

The season series between these Pacific Division rivals started October 20 in the season's second week. That night in Glendale, Jonathan Quick made 28 saves in a 2-0 win. Compared to the five series games that followed, that score was a blowout win for the Kings.

The teams met again in Glendale just nine days later in a game that saw the Kings and Coyotes go back and forth, combining for 72 shots. The hard-fought affair ended with Daymond Langkow's overtime winner from in close on Quick to give the Coyotes a 3-2 overtime win.

By the time the regular season was wrapped up, the Kings would hold a 3-1-2 advantage in the series, outscoring the Coyotes 13-11. Every game but the opener was won by a single goal in a season matchup that saw three shutouts, two overtimes, a shootout, and even a scrap between captains Shane Doan and Dustin Brown. The shootout took place in the teams' final matchup on February 21, a 5-4 Coyotes win in Glendale won by Mikkal Boedker's pretty shootout tally on Quick.

If that wild season series, not to mention the first month of the playoffs, is any indication, the 2012 Western Conference Final could be a good one.
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