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Kings go for sweep of Coyotes in Game 4

by Corey Masisak

(Los Angeles leads series, 3-0)


Big Story: The Los Angeles Kings will try to secure a place in the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 19 years, while the Phoenix Coyotes would like to earn at least one more home game this season.

Team Scope:

Coyotes: Phoenix needs to find more offense if it is going to compete with Los Angeles. The Kings have been able to generate chances and solve Mike Smith, but the Coyotes have only three goals in three games against Jonathan Quick.

Welcoming Martin Hanzal and Adrian Aucoin back to the lineup could help. Hanzal helps the Coyotes match up better at center and Aucoin should be better at handling the pressure of the Los Angeles forecheck than the two young guys who have tried to replace him. Coach Dave Tippett shuffled the forward lines at practice, going back to the top two units that helped Phoenix advance past Nashville.

Hanzal will skate between the team's two leading scorers in the regular season, Ray Whitney and Radim Vrbata. Neither of those guys have a point in the past six games.

Kings: Los Angeles is one win from the Cup Final, and the Kings have shown they can remain focused despite a lopsided advantage in this postseason. They have raced to a 3-0 lead in each of the three series, and still have only one loss on the postseason resume finishing the defending Western Conference champion Vancouver Canucks in five games and the St. Louis Blues in four.

Depth has been the biggest factor in Los Angeles claiming the high ground in this series. Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown continue to lead the team’s offense, but Jeff Carter had a hat trick in Game 2 and grinder Dwight King has four goals in the three games. King’s line, with Jarret Stoll and Trevor Lewis, had a dominant showing in Game 3. The Coyotes have been searching for one line to play consistently well, while the Kings have had three different groups provide dynamic performances.

Who's Hot: Phoenix captain Shane Doan has been scoreless the past two games, but he does have two goals and five points in the past seven contests. Kopitar has 10 points in the past seven games for the Kings, including at least one in six straight. King has the four goals this series and five this postseason, which is tied for seventh in the League and more than New York's Marian Gaborik and New Jersey's Zach Parise, despite playing in less games than both.

Injury Report: Tippett said Friday there were decisions to be made on a couple of injured guys. Aucoin, who hasn't played this series, is presumably one of them. He said Thursday that he's ready to go. If he plays, neither team will be missing anyone with short-term injuries. Colin Fraser returned from a personal matter and should be back in the lineup for the Kings.

Stat Pack: Quick has allowed 10 goals in the past 10 games. The Kings have not yielded a power-play goal against St. Louis or Phoenix -- a span of seven contests. Meanwhile, Phoenix has only scored one power-play goal since the first round, and that was in Game 1 against Nashville.

Phoenix goalie Mike Smith has gone 23 straight games dating back to the regular season with a save percentage of at least .900. Quick’s streak is at 12 games -- he had back-to-back performances with sub-.900 save percentages to end the regular season.

Puck Drop: While Kings coach Darryl Sutter said he would preach attention to detail and emotional control to his team, he isn't trying to hide what is a relatively young roster (the youngest still playing) from the spotlight of the NHL playoffs.

He is having the team stay together in a hotel downtown, instead of sequestered in the suburbs away from all of the sports-related pandemonium of the weekend. Game 4 will be the fifth of six games played at Staples Center in four days, not to mention the end of the Tour of California bike race that will conclude just before Game 4 near the arena.

"The biggest thing, everybody was caught up in the team staying downtown, the Stanley Cup Playoffs -- you know what, experience the experience," Sutter said. "It's awesome for the young guys. They haven't had it. Most of them hadn't even won a playoff game.

"Why not experience the experience, right? Same thing [the media is] doing. Experience the experience, right? It's the best part of it. Why shouldn't they be able to do that? That's the only way you get it. Otherwise you go watch another team play, right? That's the best part of it. Go to the other side, talk to Phoenix. It's an awesome experience for them. Why wouldn't you want that?"
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