Originally posted on Fox Sports Arizona  |  Last updated 4/18/12
CHICAGO In three games of the Coyotes-Blackhawks first-round playoff series, weve had three overtimes, two-game tying goals in the final minute of play, 14 different goal scorers and 124 saves from Phoenix goalie Mike Smith on 132 shots. Normally, those would be dominant storylines. In this series, theyre window dressing. When the Blackhawks and Coyotes spoke to the media following Wednesdays practice at the United Center, all anybody wanted to ask them about was Phoenix forward Raffi Torres impending suspension for an open-ice hit on Chicago forward Marian Hossa in Game 3. Unfortunately for the league, that storyline is playing out at arenas all over North America. Through Tuesday, there had been eight suspensions in the 2012 playoffs first round (Torres will make nine), more than the total from the entire 2011 postseason. Theres things that should not be happening, Chicago forward Andrew Brunette said. Its not just last night, its been all through this playoff season. Obviously, were not getting the message. The league suspended Torres indefinitely on Wednesday, pending an in-person hearing on Friday at which time he could receive a suspension longer than five games. The hearing, which had been planned for Wednesday, was deferred at the request of Torres and the National Hockey League Players' Association. A league source said an NHLPA representative could not make the Wednesday meeting, but the Coyotes might also be waiting on Hossas status since it could impact the length of the suspension. Hossas loss would challenge the Blackhawks already questionable depth on their forward lines. The Hawks have struggled to field a competent fourth line all season. You would think Torres loss would impact the Coyotes in a similar fashion, particularly since center Martin Hanzal and wing Lauri Korpikoski are still injured and out of the lineup, with further evaluation planned for Thursday mornings skate. But the Coyotes have been a resilient bunch, and theres a good reason for that. Weve played with so many different line combinations that its easy for guys to step in and play, captain Shane Doan said. Weve got so many players that are almost the exact same player. Were a group of blue-collar guys that play well together, and it doesnt matter who youre playing with. The Coyotes also have more depth up front and on the blue line that they havent enjoyed in previous seasons. Our depth throughout our organization is better, and we have players down there (in the American Hockey League) that are better equipped to come and play in this situation, coach Dave Tippett said. In years past, weve had some young players that if you put them in a situation like this right now, it would probably be tough on them. Instead, the Coyotes were able to withstand the loss of defensemen David Schlemko, Rostislav Klesla and Derek Morris earlier this season by sliding Chris Summers, Michael stone and David Rudblad into the lineup. They were able to overcome the loss of Hanzal and Korpikoski on Tuesday by turning to Kyle Chipchura and Gilbert Brule. Weve gotten to the point where we can survive and play instead of crossing our fingers, shutting our eyes and hoping we can survive, general manager Don Maloney said. And when theyve needed big goals, theyve gotten them from a variety of unexpected sources. The teams top three scorers, Radim Vrbata, Ray Whitney and Shane Doan, have combined for one goal in this series, but Antoine Vermette has three. Torres, Hanzal, Taylor Pyatt, Mikkel Boedker and Rusty Klesla have all added one apiece. We understand playoffs are a hard grind, and youre going to use a lot of people, Tippett said. But what we always talk about is: When a player goes out, its an opportunity for somebody else. Thats kind of the identity of our team.
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