LOS ANGELES – Trailing 3-0, the Coyotes know they have zero wiggle room left in their best-of-seven Western Conference Finals series vs. the Los Angeles Kings.
In other words, they know they must win every game starting with Game 4 on Sunday – or, of course, there will be no more games.
"We can't just roll over and let them take us,” Coyotes forward Kyle Chipchura said after Friday’s optional skate in El Segundo, Calif. “There's a lot of pride on the line.”
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Well said. The Coyotes have worked too hard and accomplished too much this season to have it end with a sweep at the hands of the Kings. Thus, I'm expecting Phoenix to play its best game of the series on Sunday.
Chipchura was one of only a handful of players who skated on Friday. Most players instead chose to take the day off and an emotional break from the grind of a long postseason run such as this one.
Defenseman Adrian Aucoin, who hasn’t played in this series with the Kings because of injury, skated on Friday and afterward declared himself ready to play in Game 4.
“Are you the cavalry?” Todd Walsh of Fox Sports Arizona asked Aucoin inside a makeshift press conference room at the Toyota Sports Center, aka the Kings' version of the Ice Den in Scottsdale.
“I hope so,” Aucoin replied.
Frankly, the Coyotes could use an experienced playoff defenseman such as Aucoin to help them slow the Kings, who have outscored Phoenix, 10-3, in the first three games.
"I'm hoping to play the next game,” Aucoin said. “It's been really frustrating watching. They're playing some good hockey. Everybody is working hard. They're doing the little things right. That's the way we like to dictate the game. I think we've let them control the flow a little bit too much.”
Aucoin was asked if he thinks the Coyotes can draw on experience from last season when they faced a similar 3-0 deficit to Detroit in the playoffs.
“I think Detroit was a different scenario,” Aucoin said. “I don't think we were even close last year, whereas now we really know how good we can be and we just have to play that way. As much as I'd like to take something from that series against Detroit, I don't think there's much to take from it.”
The Red Wings swept the Coyotes, 4-0, last season so, like Aucoin said, perhaps it’s best for all involved not to bring that up.
Regarding this series, center Martin Hanzal said the Coyotes must shift into desperation mode ASAP.
"We've got to throw more pucks at the net,” Hanzal said Friday. “That's what they're doing and they are winning.”
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He added, “This is desperation time. You’ve got to do everything (you can) to win because this is pretty much the last chance.”
Forward Gilbert Brule was a healthy scratch for Game 3. Asked what he saw from watching from above, Brule said:
“They're pressuring really hard, especially in our own end. The wingers, we're having a hard time getting the puck out. You know, they're pinching all the time. They're having their centermen back them up, their third guy high all the time. It's tough to get past them.”
Head Coach Dave Tippett knows the Coyotes are in a tough spot. On Friday, Tippett said with so much at stake the team needs more form its top players.
“We have to find some ways to create some more opportunities whether it's on the power play or five-on-five,” Tippett said. "I thought our first period (in Game 3), we were better, jumping on loose pucks, getting some pucks to the net. As the game went on, you're looking for people that create chances. We're a team that scores by committee. But that being said, the people that play on the power play are the people that get the opportunity in offensive situations. We have to have a little more from them.”
EDITOR'S NOTE: Contact Dave Vest at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @davest4yotes.