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Coyotes need more players to step up

by Corey Masisak

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- One of the bedrocks of the Phoenix Coyotes' philosophy is to find scoring by committee.

The club expects to receive offense from everyone as a way to make up for a lack of game-breaking talent. Still, there are a couple of guys who are expected to contribute more than others, and some of those guys haven't been part of the scoring committee of late.

"We're missing a little from the committee right now. The committee needs to reconvene that meeting, I think," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. "We need some more people to jump in. Finishing the play is one thing, but we need to create more. It goes back to sustaining forecheck pressure, making plays under pressure, whether it be on the power play or five-on-five. We need more people to chip in in that area.


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"When you have the puck more, you're making some plays more, there's a better chance you're going to get more pucks at the net. It all goes hand-in-hand."

Ray Whitney and Radim Vrbata were the only two Coyotes to finish the regular season with more than 22 goals and more than 50 points. Whitney had 72 points, and Vrbata had 35 goals -- proof that Phoenix possesses more dynamic personnel than the Coyotes are often credited with.

Whitney and Vrbata are also two of the guys Tippett's team needs more from. Neither has registered a point in the past six games, and beyond that neither has looked particularly dangerous at the offensive end in this series against Los Angeles.

If the Coyotes are going to avoid elimination against the Kings in Game 4, getting something from their top two scorers would certainly be a good start.

"Well, obviously your top scorers have to produce," Whitney said. "Right now, it's tough for us. Like I said, it's hard to score in the playoffs, for one. When you play a team that's smothering like this, without a lot of power plays, it's even more frustrating to try to create offense. They're doing a good job.

"Obviously you have to look at your top scorers to produce. But when you're playing a team that's pretty good defensively, you're going to need some contributions from everybody. This is, unfortunately, a team game, and we're built around a team concept. We need production from everybody."

Tippett reunited his top two scorers Friday at practice on a familiar line with Martin Hanzal, who will return to the lineup after missing Game 3 because of a suspension. He also put his most-used second line in this postseason back together as well, with Antoine Vermette centering Mikkel Boedker and captain Shane Doan.

"Hopefully -- whatever could work out there," Vermette said of the shuffle. "I mean, at this point, we put all the individuals aside. We want to win. We want to play hard. Doesn't matter who you're playing with."

The Coyotes have only three goals in this series, so Vrbata and Whitney aren't alone in shouldering the blame. Doan has a single assist.

"We haven't found ways to score," Doan said.

Defensemen Keith Yandle and Oliver Ekman-Larsson, such a big part of the offense by committee approach in the regular season, have combined for one assist in the three games. They combined for 24 goals in the regular season, but have only one between the two of them this postseason.

Lauri Korpikoski had 17 goals and 37 points in the regular season, but has dealt with injuries in this postseason and has no points in nine games played. Instead of moving Daymond Langkow back to the fourth line with Hanzal's return, Tippett put him on the third unit with Korpikoski and Taylor Pyatt -- who has been a bright spot this series. Langkow had the team's lone goal in Game 3.

"It would be nice if we could get somebody hot, get something going," Doan said. "Playoffs, it's like that. You look at [Dwight] King for them. He's been a huge asset for them. He wasn't exactly the guy they were counting on at the beginning of the year, 'This is one of the guys that will help us win in the playoffs.' Now he's stepped in and performed so well for them, been such a key contributor in every game. We need that. We need guys to contribute. We need guys to step up."

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