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Posted On Thursday, 05.17.2012 / 3:46 PM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Kings series blog

Coyotes embracing underdog role

LOS ANGELES -- The Phoenix Coyotes are in a tough spot, down 2-0 to the Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference Finals and facing two games on the road, starting with Game 3 of the series here at Staples Center on Thursday (9 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, CBC).

The odds are stacked in the Los Angeles Kings' favor, and finding people who expect the Coyotes to win this series outside the Phoenix dressing room could be a difficult task.

In other words, it's a normal day for the Coyotes.

"We were joking about how obviously everyone is picking the Kings to win this now, and that's a good thing because pretty much everyone has been picking against us for three years," Phoenix captain Shane Doan said. "The moment people start picking us is when we have to be worried. We just have to find a way to rally around something."

Few pundits expected the Coyotes to return to the playoffs this season after losing goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov in the summer. Not only are they back in the playoffs, but they have reached the conference finals for the first time in franchise history.

While the Coyotes were the higher seed in each of their first two playoff series this year, Chicago and Nashville had amassed more points during the regular season and were the favorites. Even though Phoenix eked out the Pacific Division title, finishing ahead of San Jose and Los Angeles, the Kings were a heavy favorite against the Coyotes.

Now that the Kings have won the first two games in Phoenix and the Coyotes will be without center Martin Hanzal because of a suspension and defenseman Adrian Aucoin because of an injury, there won't be many people expecting a victory for the road team on Thursday.

"Somebody sent me an e-mail [Wednesday] about being picked 15th going into the conference [this season]," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "We're finding ways to overcome the adversity and we'll continue to try to find that. That's kind of the way it's been for a long time for us, so that doesn't seem to bother us too much."

Added Doan: "We've been pretty good at blocking things that are going on around us and just finding a way to win. That's all we've got to do [Thursday]  -- find a way to win one game."
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Posted On Thursday, 05.17.2012 / 3:14 PM

By Corey Masisak -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Kings series blog

Projected Game 3 lineups

LOS ANGELES -- The Phoenix Coyotes will try to get back into this Western Conference Finals series against the Los Angeles Kings in Game 3 at Staples Center on Thursday night, but they will have to do so without center Martin Hanzal and defenseman Adrian Aucoin.

Hanzal is suspended after a hit from behind in Game 2 on Kings captain Dustin Brown, and Aucoin remains out with an injury.

Here's the projected lineup for both teams:

COYOTES
Ray Whitney - Antoine Vermette - Shane Doan
Taylor Pyatt - Daymond Langkow - Radim Vrbata
Lauri Korpikoski - Boyd Gordon - Mikkel Boedker
Gilbert Brule - Kyle Chipchura - Marc-Antoine Pouliot

Keith Yandle - Derek Morris
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Michal Rozsival
Rostislav Klesla - Michael Stone

Mike Smith
Jason LaBarbera

KINGS

Dustin Brown - Anze Kopitar - Justin Williams
Dustin Penner - Mike Richards - Jeff Carter
Dwight King - Jarret Stoll - Trevor Lewis
Kyle Clifford - Brad Richardson - Jordan Nolan

Drew Doughty - Rob Scuderi
Willie Mitchell - Slava Voynov
Matt Greene - Alec Martinez

Jonathan Quick
Jonathan Bernier
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Posted On Thursday, 05.17.2012 / 3:04 PM

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

Clifford staying in lineup

LOS ANGELES -- Kyle Clifford will stay in the lineup for the Los Angeles Kings for Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals on Thursday at Staples Center ( 9 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS).

Colin Fraser remained in Canada for a family matter, although he was expected to return in the afternoon, Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. However, he said Clifford will play.

Clifford didn't know he would play in Game 2 until a few hours before the game. He said it wasn't too much of an adjustment even though he had not played since Game 1 of the first round, April 11.

"Definitely the emotions were there, so it was fun," Clifford said.

Clifford will play left wing on the fourth line again, with Brad Richardson at center and rookie Jordan Nolan on the right side when L.A. attempts to take a 3-0 series lead on the Phoenix Coyotes.

"I think your adrenaline carries you most of the way," Clifford said. "We're a high-energy line so we've just got to get pucks in, finish checks and keep it simple."
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Posted On Thursday, 05.17.2012 / 2:58 PM

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

Day off has Kings' Brown feeling fine for Game 3

LOS ANGELES -- Dustin Brown was intact and seemingly ready to go for Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals on Thursday (9 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS) at the Kings' morning skate.

The Los Angeles Kings captain probably was the most appreciative of the day off between Games 2 and 3 after he was the recipient of a slash from Phoenix Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith and a boarding penalty from Martin Hanzal that earned the Coyotes center a one-game suspension.

What hurt more?

"Probably the hit," Brown said. "The slash, my leg went numb. … You're used to getting slashed every day.

"Going into intermission, my foot was sleeping, maybe a little numb. When I came out for the third, I had pretty much full feeling in my leg."

Hanzal boarded Brown when Brown chased his own chip to the end boards in the third period of Game 2. Brown stayed in the game, and if he was hurt, he is showing no effects from it.

"I got my arms up, so that's probably the best scenario considering the play," Brown said.

That Brown was not hurt factored into the one-game suspension levied by the NHL Player Safety Department. Also, Hanzal does not have a history of over-the-line play.

"I know these games are probably worth more," Brown said. "I thought he was going to get two [games]. But it's not an easy decision to make considering we're in the Western finals. As a player, you don't really worry about length. I guess the media really likes talking about the state of the game right now. Right now they've got one of their top centers out and we've got to be ready to go."

Brown sounded more irked at the diving penalty he was given on the full-swing slash by Smith.

"Quite surprised, I guess," Brown said. "I don't really understand it. It came down from over his head. I'm not sure. I still don't understand it. Most refs haven't been slashed on the back of the leg, either."

Kings coach Darryl Sutter only said of the suspension, "That's what the League valued it as. I'm thankful [Brown] didn't get hurt."
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Posted On Thursday, 05.17.2012 / 2:39 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Devils series blog

Rangers not dwelling on the past

When facing elimination in the first round, the Rangers won back-to-back games to dispatch the Ottawa Senators. It’s the only time they've won back to back games in a series this postseason, but they are three wins shy of reaching the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 18 years because, as coach John Tortorella said, they don't dwell on the past.
 
"You have a short-term memory come playoff time," Tortorella said during a conference call Thursday. "Playoffs are a whole different animal. We don't spend too much time talking about streaks. We just spend time trying to make corrections in our game, trying to be better in the things we think we need to be better for our next game, and go about our business."
 
Tortorella said the Rangers weren't nearly good enough against the Devils in Game 2 Wednesday.
 
"We look for what we do and we didn't do for a number of minutes," he said. "I'll put it to you that way; we just didn't do for a number of minutes in that game, and that's something that needs to be rectified."
 
The Rangers have been good at rectifying in these playoffs. They may only have won back-to-back games in a series once, but they've lost back-to-back games only once as well.
 
They'll try to avoid it happening again in Game 3 Saturday at Prudential Center (1 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS).
 
"We want to try to win a couple in a row, but the other team doesn't want to lose a couple in a row," Tortorella said. "You play and each team is trying to find their way. We didn't [Wednesday]. We moved by it. We learned from it. Hopefully we're going to be a better team come Saturday."
 
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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Posted On Thursday, 05.17.2012 / 2:26 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Devils series blog

Parise brings 'special combination' of work ethic, skill

NEWARK, N.J. -- Pete DeBoer has coached many great players in his career, including several during his junior hockey days.
 
The list includes forwards Mike Richards and Derek Roy, and goalie Steve Mason when he was with the Ontario Hockey League's Kitchener Rangers. He also mentored forwards Stephen Weiss, David Booth and Gregory Campbell and defenseman Dennis Seidenberg during his stint with the Florida Panthers.
 
Few, however, work as hard as New Jersey Devils captain Zach Parise.
 
"There aren't many," DeBoer said. "He's right at the top of the list. What makes him special is, you've got guys like that that play on your fourth line on every team. They're there because of their relentless work ethic, but what separates [Parise] is he's got world-class skill and world-class hockey sense on top of that. That's the special combination Zach has."
 
Parise has certainly been front and center during the Stanley Cup Playoffs this spring for the Devils. He has four goals, nine points, 36 hits and a team-leading 12 takeaways in 14 postseason games. He ranks second on the team among forwards in ice time (21:16) and ranks first with 57 shots on goal.
 
The experience of playing in his first Eastern Conference Finals series has been exciting. He's hoping the Devils can continue in Game 3 on Saturday at Prudential Center where they left off at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday in locking down a 3-2 victory.
 
"This series has been everything that we were anticipating really from the hockey standpoint," Parise said. "We expected tight games. We expected not a lot of room out there from either team and games down to the wire. I guess from everything else surrounding it, it's definitely more media coverage than we've ever seen, so that part is a little different than the attention that it's getting.
 
"But I think that's what you kind of have to expect when you're still playing at this time of the year."
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale



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Posted On Thursday, 05.17.2012 / 2:18 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Devils series blog

Devils willing to do the heavy lifting to win games

NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils coach Peter DeBoer refers to his group as a "heavy team."
 
Heavy in that when they're not outworking the opposition along the walls or in the corners, they're not nearly as successful on the scoreboard.
 
"I think we're heavy on the puck, heavy on our sticks, we're heavy in the corners and along the walls, and that's the way we're built," DeBoer said during a conference call with the media on Thursday. "When we're playing our best, we're in those areas of the ice."
 
DeBoer gave his players a day off following a 3-2 victory over the New York Rangers in Game 2 on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden. The Devils will get back to work on Friday to prepare for Saturday's Game 3 against the Rangers on home ice at Prudential Center. 
 
Playing heavy and hard was certainly the recipe for success on Wednesday, when the Devils outworked the Rangers in the tough areas of the ice while outnumbering their opponent for the puck on numerous occasions.
 
"That's a big part of our game," DeBoer said. "We're not a team that wants to trade rush chances or power plays. We're not built that way, so I think our success has come, and it's a common theme, through five-on-five play and by wearing down the other team and playing in their end of the ice."
 
Devils captain Zach Parise realizes every game this time of the year will be tightly contested -- there are fewer odd-man rushes and breakaways. The only way to succeed is by outworking the opponent.
 
"When we're playing well, that's what we're doing, and it's a challenge against these guys because that's what they've been known for this year, outworking their opponent and kind of owning the puck down low and along the boards," Parise said. "I think we have to do a really good job of doing that if we want to beat these guys this series because that's a part they're really good at.
 
"At the same time, when we're playing well and winning, that's one area of our game that we're doing well."
 
The Devils forced five giveaways in Game 2 against the Rangers, one of which led to Ryan Carter's tip-in goal that tied the game, 2-2, late in the second period.
 
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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Posted On Thursday, 05.17.2012 / 12:50 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Devils series blog

Fourth line comes up big for Devils

NEW YORK -- Once again, the fourth line of the New Jersey Devils provided the necessary spark at the most opportune time.
 
With the second period winding down and the New York Rangers seemingly in control and clinging to a one-goal lead, Ryan Carter deflected a shot past Henrik Lundqvist with just 1:51 left to pull the visitors into a tie and provide just the impetus required in an eventual 3-2 triumph in Game 2 at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday.
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Posted On Thursday, 05.17.2012 / 12:06 AM

By John Kreiser -  NHL.com Columnist /NHL.com - Bracket Challenge Blog

Tight games continue to be the rule this spring

The hardest thing to get in this spring's playoffs is a big lead.

Martin Brodeur
Goalie - NJD
RECORD: 9-4
GAA: 2.05 | SVP: 0.921
New Jersey's 3-2 victory against the Rangers in New York on Wednesday night got the Devils even in the Eastern Conference Finals heading into Game 3 in Newark on Saturday (1 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS). It also marked the 44th time in 73 games this spring that the winning margin was a single goal -- and in eight other games, the two-goal margin of victory included an empty-netter.

There have already been more one-goal games this spring than there were in all of the 2008, 2009 and 2010 playoffs. Last spring's playoffs had 48 games decided by one goal, a total that's a pretty good bet to be exceeded as well. The most one-goal games in the past 10 years came in 2007, when there were 51.
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Posted On Wednesday, 05.16.2012 / 6:16 PM

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

Kings' Fraser could miss Game 3

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- It appears that Los Angeles Kings center Colin Fraser could miss another game of the Western Conference Finals.

Fraser is attending to a family matter, according to the Kings, and missed Game 2 on Tuesday. Asked about Fraser on Wednesday, coach Darryl Sutter said Fraser was "back in Alberta."

Brad Richardson moved from wing to center Kyle Clifford and Jordan Nolan. It was Clifford's first action since Game 1 of the quarterfinals, when he was hit by Byron Bitz of the Vancouver Canucks and left with a concussion.

Fraser is an integral part of the Kings' grinding fourth line, but if can't play in Game 3 on Thursday, Sutter will likely turn back to Clifford, a big physical forward with a slight scoring touch. He was a surprise standout of the playoffs last season for L.A. when he played on a line with Richardson and Wayne Simmonds.

"Quite honestly, he was the logical guy to go in for [Fraser] because he brings the same sort of thing," Sutter said. "You can't take penalties and he's got to play hard and he's got to be responsible on the right side of the puck. If he does that, he gets a chance to play."

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