EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Someone asked Adrian Aucoin after practice Friday if he represented "the calvary" for the Phoenix Coyotes.
Aucoin, who has missed the first three games of this Western Conference Finals series against the Los Angeles Kings because of an injury, could be back for Game 4 on Sunday to try and help his Coyotes avoid elimination.
Defense - PHX
GOALS: 0 | ASST: 2 | PTS: 2
SOG: 9 | +/-: 4
"I hope so. I mean, obviously I'm hoping to play next game," Aucoin said. "It's been real frustrating watching. It's been frustrating on many levels. I think obviously in the first couple games, we didn't play close to where we wanted to. I thought we were better last game. The way the bounces have gone, the way other things we can't control have gone, has been pretty frustrating."
Aucoin played only 8:17 in Phoenix’s series-clinching win against the Nashville Predators in the second round. The Coyotes dressed David Schlemko for one game in his place, and Michael Stone for two, but they have clearly missed his steady presence on the blue line.
"It's always the coach's decision, absolutely," Aucoin said. "It's always tough to keep any player out, regardless of where they're at. It comes down to whether the coach thinks you're able or not."
But if it were up to him?
"I'm ready to go," Aucoin said. "I would have played in Game 1 if I could have. It's just the way it is."
COYOTES VS. KINGS
Kings in command of Conference Finals
By Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer
The Kings third line took starring roles as the Los Angeles defeated the Phoenix Coyotes 2-1 at Staples Center to earn their eighth straight victory and a 3-0 series lead. READ MORE ›
One player the Coyotes will definitely have back in the lineup is center Martin Hanzal, who was suspended for Game 3 after a hit from behind on Kings captain Dustin Brown late in Game 2. Hanzal has centered one of Phoenix’s top two lines this season, and has played next to leading goal-scorer Radim Vrbata during this postseason.
The Coyotes lack the scoring depth that the Kings possess, but Hanzal was especially missed because of his defensive ability. Los Angeles has three quality centers in Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards and Jarret Stoll, and not having Hanzal to help counteract them was a big problem for coach Dave Tippett on Thursday.
"It was tough," Hanzal said. "It's always tough when you're out, can't help your teammates to win. But I thought they played pretty good. We got to focus on Game 4."
Hanzal and Aucoin do represent "the cavalry" for the Coyotes, who are still searching for answers after three consecutive losses to the red-hot Kings. Tippett said after the game that his team still needs to find another level to compete with the Kings, and having the lineup at full strength could help with that quest.
"They are two huge parts," Kyle Chipchura said. "Marty, we knew we were going to lose him for one game. We thought we could pull together for one and have him back for Game 4 would be huge. We still get him back now and he’s going to help us out a lot. [Aucoin] is a good, veteran presence on the back. We’re going to welcome them back with open arms.
"Marty is the type of guy that is pretty underrated around the League. He is hard to play against and the way he does a little bit of everything for us. He’s a huge part of our team. I think when you don’t have him in there you really see what you’re missing."