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Coyotes vs Kings - 2012 Stanley Cup Conference Finals

Pacific rivals get Western Conference Finals started

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

KINGS at COYOTES

TV: NBCSN, TSN, RDS

Season Series: The Los Angeles Kings and Phoenix Coyotes both play in the Pacific Division, but they haven't played each other since Feb. 21, when the Coyotes won a wild one in a shootout, 5-4, at Jobing.com Arena. The Kings had a 3-0 lead in the first period, but Phoenix pulled to within 4-3 after two and got a goal from Radim Vrbata with 2:27 left in the third to force overtime. Mikkel Boedker scored the shootout winner against Jonathan Quick.

Los Angeles won the season series by picking up eight of a possible 12 points (3-1-2). Its lone regulation loss was a 1-0 heartbreaker on Feb. 16 at Staples Center. Phoenix had seven points in the season series (3-2-1), but has come out on top in the last two meetings against the Kings.

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Coyotes finally enjoying time in the Arizona sun

Jerry Brown - NHL.com Correspondent

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Arizona Diamondbacks have five division titles and a World Series championship banner hanging in their rafters. The Arizona Cardinals went to the Super Bowl after the 2008 season, ending a long draught of futility, while the Phoenix Suns have been to the NBA Finals twice and the Western Conference Finals as recently as 2010.

As for the Phoenix Coyotes? Just trying to survive has been hard enough. A distant fourth in a pro sports market that also includes a major university (Arizona State) and a gaggle of fringe sports options, just reaching the playoffs has been a struggle, while making postseason noise has been a dream.

Until now.

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Coyotes and Kings use same formula for success

Jerry Brown - NHL.com Correspondent

GLENDALE, Ariz. – The Phoenix Coyotes have played 11 playoff games so far this postseason. Eight of them were decided by one goal and six needed overtime to determine a winner.

Nothing new there: Half of the 82 games the Coyotes played during the regular season were decided by one goal, and 22 went to overtime. Five of the Coyotes' six regular-season meetings with the Los Angeles Kings were decided by one goal and three went past regulation.

That leaves a fans base with very few fingernails -- and a team that is very comfortable walking the high wire without a net. The Western Conference Finals will kick off Sunday night in 100-degree Arizona heat, and the comfort level won't be any better in the ice than in the sun. There are few secrets between these Pacific Division rivals who have a lot more than Wayne Gretzky and warm weather in common.

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Lombardi talks Quick, Sutter and Kings' success

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Always one of the most honest and talkative general managers, the Los Angeles Kings' Dean Lombardi sat down with NHL.com for nearly an hour inside his office at the Toyota Sports Center earlier this week.

Lombardi's team, the one he has been building since taking over the GM's post in L.A. on April 21, 2006, begins play against Phoenix in the Western Conference Finals Sunday at Jobing.com Arena (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS).

Here is some of his insight on the type of hockey town Los Angeles is becoming, his feelings on what's important in building a franchise, the growth of star goalie Jonathan Quick, why the addition of coach Darryl Sutter has worked so well, and how he never felt his work was coming undone despite things looking so bleak as late as three-quarters of the way through the regular season.

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Coyotes, Kings set for first playoff meeting in West Final

NHL.com

NEW YORK -- The Valley of the Sun and Hollywood will provide the dazzling settings for the first Stanley Cup Conference Final to be played entirely in the American West when the Phoenix Coyotes and Los Angeles Kings clash in the 2012 Western Conference Final. What follows is a look at two teams that are geographic neighbors but took very different routes to this series:

WCF in the PST: This is just the second all-Pacific Time Zone Conference Final, but it's the second straight (Vancouver-San Jose in 2011).

LA Cruisin': Despite facing the toughest possible combination of seeded opponents, the Kings required just nine games to get here – beating No. 1 Vancouver in five games and sweeping No. 2 St. Louis.

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Maximum effort is commonplace in Phoenix

Jerry Brown - NHL.com Correspondent

GLENDALE, Ariz.Phoenix Coyotes coach Dave Tippett has a soft spot in his heart for those players charged with the duty of stepping in front of slap shots and bearing the brunt of their wrath.

And he has scars elsewhere to remind him of what they are going through.

"I took a couple of bad ones in the face -- those are the ones that sting ya," Tippett said. "Getting it in the hands are tough. But the body? It just stings for awhile and it goes away."

Watching Boyd Gordon, Lauri Korpikoski, Derek Morris and others put themselves between a bomb from Nashville's Shea Weber and its intended target brought back less-than-fond memories for Tippett, who used his own body as a pin cushion during his 721-game NHL career.

One game at the Montreal Forum early in his penalty-killing career quickly surges to mind.

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Coyotes and Kings need to temper their mutual dislike

Jerry Brown - NHL.com Correspondent

GLENDALE, Ariz. – The Coyotes are still ticked about Drew Doughty’s disputed overtime goal with three Kings standing in the crease in January. They are also none-too-happy about Los Angeles captain Dustin Brown’s hit on Rostislav Klesla that started a free-for-all in the first period a month later.

The Kings aren’t happy about blowing a 3-0 first-period lead in Glendale the last time these two teams met or losing twice to the Coyotes during Phoenix’s 11-0-1 run in February. Losing the Pacific Division title to Phoenix in the last week of the regular season still stings, as the Kings lost a home-and-home series to San Jose while the Coyotes won their last five games to tip-toe past, pushing Los Angeles all the way down to the eighth seed.

You don’t play six times in the regular season without building up a healthy hatred and the Kings and Coyotes don’t need much of an excuse to battle. But this time the Western Conference title is on the line, so settling scores will run a distant second to a chance to play for the Stanley Cup.

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For Kings, proper perspective comes with experience

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- In separate interviews, in separate corners of the dressing room, Mike Richards, Matt Greene and Dustin Penner let the nicknames of the eight players on the Kings roster that have been to the Stanley Cup Final roll off their tongues like they had the list right at the tip.

Richie, Greener and Pens are three of them, so that part was easy. Scuds (Rob Scuderi), Willy (Justin Williams), Stollie (Jarret Stoll), Cartsy (Jeff Carter) and Fras (Colin Fraser) are the other five.

While they didn't mention him, you can also count coach Darryl Sutter in that group.

Why do Richards, Greene and Penner have the list memorized and emblazoned on the forefront of their consciousness? They know it can be their big advantage heading into the Western Conference Finals against Phoenix, which will ice a lineup against the Kings that includes only two players that have been to the Stanley Cup Final and only one (Ray Whitney) that has a ring.

"I definitely think it helps as a mentality that bleeds onto the rest of the guys," said Penner, who won the Stanley Cup with Anaheim in 2007. "We've been there before. We know what to expect."

And they know how far they still have to go.

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Kings' success helping feed SoCal youth hockey

Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

When Helen Alex relocated from Toronto to Los Angeles, she brought her love of hockey with her. Only it was tough for her to find that love reciprocated.

"When I first started there must have been about 10 rinks, but some of these rinks were lower basement-type rinks that were probably a hardwood floor for roller hockey," she told NHL.com.

Over the last 20 years, though, Alex -- the Tier Director for the Los Angeles Jr. Kings Hockey Club -- has seen Southern California grow into a fertile hockey-producing region.

The latest product of that development model is Nicolas Kerdiles of the U.S. National Team Development Program, a left wing who is No. 29 in NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters for the 2012 NHL Draft.

He had 20 goals and 22 assists in 50 games with the USNTDP under-18 team this season, and added four goals and five assists in six games to help the U.S. win a fourth straight gold medal at the 2012 World Under-18 Championship last month in the Czech Republic.

Kerdiles grew up in Irvine and played his minor hockey with the L.A. Selects hockey club, which recently merged with the Jr. Kings.

And if he is drafted in the first two rounds, it would mark the third straight year and fourth time since the 2007 draft that a California-born or -trained player has been drafted that high.

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Coyotes need another big series from Mike Smith

Jerry Brown - NHL.com Correspondent

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- With 59 seconds separating the Phoenix Coyotes from their maiden voyage to the Western Conference Finals, the frustrated Nashville Predators called their timeout. They crowded around coach Barry Trotz, plotting one final assault on the diabolical force that was about to send them home for the summer.

Mike Smith
Goalie - PHX
RECORD: 8-3-2
GAA: 1.77 | SVP: 0.948
On the other bench, like a pitcher three outs away from a no-hitter with teammates deathly afraid to do anything to break the spell, Phoenix goalie Mike Smith was left all alone with his thoughts.

Smith slouched his 6-foot-4 frame against the boards like a lazy teenager. He doused his curly locks with one final shower of water, staring down at the ice. Other than a nod and wink from backup goalie and buddy Jason LaBarbera, he was left alone, his mojo given a wide berth to allow him to finish what he started.

Smith made his 31st and 32nd saves of the night and his 157th and 158th of the series without incident, closing out a 2-1 win Monday night with a double fist-pump to the heavens. The only thing that could have made that final minute better was if Smith, who deftly flipped the puck high in the air and 200 feet down the ice in the final seconds, had put a little more left-handed English on it and coaxed it into the Nashville net.

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Quote of the Day

We've got a team filled with captains, that's what I think. With these first two games we got in, we're really dominating and moving the puck really fast, and it's worked out really good.

— U.S. goalie Brandon Halverson after a 6-0 win against Germany in the World Junior Championship on Sunday