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Coyotes vs Kings - 2012 Stanley Cup Conference Finals

Langkow had long, painful trip back to conference finals

Jerry Brown - Correspondent

GLENDALE, Ariz. – It's been 12 years since Daymond Langkow has been to a conference final – back when the 23-year-old center was a key cog for the Philadelphia Flyers and supporting the Legion of Doom line of John LeClair, Eric Lindros and Mikael Renberg.

Daymond Langkow
Center - PHX
GOALS: 0 | ASST: 5 | PTS: 5
SOG: 10 | +/-: 3
Although the Flyers lost in seven games to the New Jersey Devils in the 2000 Eastern Conference final, Langkow naturally figured he'd have many more chances to reach a Stanley Cup Final. But in a career that's seen him go from Philly to Phoenix to Calgary and back to Phoenix, Langkow's teams failed to get out of the first round seven times and missed the playoffs completely in four others.

And when he was carried from the ice in Minnesota in the spring of 2010 after suffering a scary and severe injury – he was hit in the back of the neck by an Ian White slap shot while playing for Calgary – there was a very real possibility that he had run out of chances.

Coyotes bond over playoff beards

Jerry Brown - Correspondent

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Professional athletes are naturally competitive – and it doesn't much matter what they're competing in. A game of cards. Balancing hockey sticks on index fingers. Who can eat the most crackers without a sip of water?

So as the Phoenix Coyotes prepare to take part in the Western Conference final for the first time in franchise history, the time-honored tradition of growing playoff beards in the name of team unity is the latest competitive sport.

Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said when he coached in Dallas, defenseman Sergei Zubov "could grow a beard in a day." He loves the playoff tradition and the bonding that comes with it.

"It's a rite of passage. The further you go the scruffier you get and the meaner you look," Tippett said. "They all look like grizzly old veterans – other than the young guys who are having trouble. But even the scraggily ones are alright."

Sutter settles into life in Southern California

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Kings coach Darryl Sutter couldn't quite figure out what that noise was. At first he thought it was a train, but that's only because on his Alberta farm he can hear trains coming for miles.

It sort of sounded like that, but it couldn't be, not here, not in the tighter confines of his new living space in Manhattan Beach, Calif.

"For a while I thought it was something mechanical in the house," Sutter told

The mysterious noise kept him up for his first few nights until finally the light went off in his head and he figured out what it was.

"It was the ocean," Sutter said laughing. "It was the waves, the whoosh."

Sutter has led re-education of Kings

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Kings general manager Dean Lombardi thinks his coach and good friend Darryl Sutter is misunderstood.

"Everyone wants to paint him as a farmer, but this guy had a full boat to Princeton -- and quite frankly if he had gone that way, I wouldn't be surprised if this guy was on Wall Street right now," Lombardi told "He is very sharp, but because he's a cowboy, us liberal intellects from the Northeast want to label him as stupid. We tend to do that. That's the thing that is really underrated here."

Not in the Kings' locker room.

The players say Sutter has been exactly what they were told he was going to be when he replaced Terry Murray on Dec. 20: brutally honest, crazy-smart, but with a shoulder to lean on as long as you're giving him the maximum effort and you're doing things his way.

Carter's scoring touch could change course of series

Curtis Zupke - Correspondent

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Sometimes Jarret Stoll will catch himself watching teammate Jeff Carter unleash his wicked wrist shot.

The puck seems to explode off his stick, and it's heavy even when he fires it from the perimeter.

Jeff Carter
Center - LAK
GOALS: 1 | ASST: 3 | PTS: 4
SOG: 24 | +/-: 3
"It's extremely hard," Stoll said. "He holds his hands pretty close together when he stickhandles and he just fires it and it's gone. It's got to be very tough for a goaltender to pick up sometimes, and if you're accurate like he is, then it's even tougher."

The Phoenix Coyotes have yet to see Carter's trademark shot. Carter came to the Kings from the Columbus Blue Jackets in late February, after L.A. had finished its six-game series against the Coyotes. Carter, in fact, didn't face Phoenix as a member of the Blue Jackets and last played against Phoenix on Feb. 22, 2011, with the Philadelphia Flyers.

Transforming Quick into NHL goalie took time

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Kings goalie coach Bill Ranford recalls marveling at the athleticism and swagger Jonathan Quick had when he was a collegiate star at the University of Massachusetts.

"He was the show," Ranford, an ex-NHL goalie, told "He was the superstar there, the big man on campus, and he could do whatever he wanted. His game was all athletic."

If Quick tried to be that type of goalie at the NHL level, Ranford said he never would have survived, never would have made it, because there would have been too many holes and far too many rebounds leading to second-chance opportunities.

"And you know how that works in the NHL," Ranford said. "They start to go in."

Early wake-up call jump-started Quick's career

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Kings general manager Dean Lombardi was steaming mad to the point he couldn't bring himself to pick up the phone to call Jonathan Quick, for fear out of what he would say. So he had assistant general manager Ron Hextall make the call.

Jonathan Quick
Goalie - LAK
RECORD: 8-1-0
GAA: 1.55 | SVP: 0.949
Imagine that -- Hextall, one of the most ferocious and fiery goaltenders to ever play in the NHL, was considered the mild-mannered one when it came to lecturing Quick about his indefensible and irresponsible act of sleeping through a part of a practice and a breakfast meeting with goalie development coach Kim Dillabaugh when he was a first-year pro in the minors.

"I remember never yelling, just telling him to grow up," Hextall told "I do remember telling him that I don't care if he has to set eight alarm clocks, I never want to make this phone call again."

Lombardi thinks of that story every time he's asked about Quick's growth into a Vezina Trophy finalist and Conn Smythe Trophy candidate halfway through the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"When you ask me how far he's come," Lombardi told, "that's how far he's come."

Coyotes' Burke paying it forward as Smith's mentor

Kevin Woodley - Correspondent

Sean Burke resurrected his career by changing his game in the Phoenix desert.

More than a decade later, he's paying it forward with Mike Smith.

The common denominator is the system of Benoit Allaire, the Phoenix Coyotes' goaltending coach when a struggling Burke was traded to Phoenix early in the 1999-2000 season. It was the fifth team in three years for a then 32-year-old Burke, a nomadic path some thought would end -- as many others do -- in Phoenix with retirement. Instead, Burke embraced Allaire's philosophy of playing deeper in the net and attacking plays from the goal line forward rather than starting aggressive and retreating.

One season after arriving in Phoenix, Burke was an All-Star again. The year after, he was a finalist for the Vezina and Hart Trophies, as well as the Lester B. Pearson Award, which was the name of the players' MVP at the time.

Singer Toscano finding new fans at Staples Center

Tal Pinchevsky - Staff Writer

Los Angeles Kings president of business operations Luc Robitaille calls her the team's good luck charm and the L.A. faithful have fully embraced her. All in all, it's an interesting way for a young up-and-coming chanteuse to find new fans. But American Idol finalist and Kings national anthem singer Pia Toscano wouldn't have it any other way.

Chili Peppers' Smith lives hockey dreams on the road

Tal Pinchevsky - Staff Writer

Between the sold-out arena concerts, millions of fans, and recent induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith has lived out most people's wildest rock star fantasies. But the longtime Detroit Red Wings fan has also been lucky enough to live out some of his childhood hockey dreams.

For the Michigan-born Smith, a lifelong infatuation with the Wings reached a new level in 1997, when he found himself in the locker room at Joe Louis Arena as the Red Wings celebrated their first Stanley Cup in 42 years. At the game to promote a charity hockey event, Smith gained access to the team's locker room, where he was quickly recognized. Moments later, he was drinking from the Stanley Cup.

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