Kings-Coyotes Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated May 21, 2012
The Phoenix Coyotes had every reason to concede the Western Conference finals to the Los Angeles Kings. They had been overwhelmed in opener, lost their composure in Game 2 and found themselves on the brink of elimination despite playing better the third game. Even with a sweep, it would have been considered a good season in Phoenix. That's just not the makeup of this team. These desert dogs are at their best when cornered and they took the first step toward digging out of a monumental hole by beating the Kings 2-0 in Los Angeles on Sunday. There's still a long way to go, starting with Game 5 Tuesday night in the desert, but a chance, even just a slight one, is all this team seems to need. ''We had no other choice; if we didn't show up yesterday, we wouldn't be talking today,'' Coyotes forward Radim Vrbata said Monday after Phoenix's optional practice at Jobing.com Arena. ''We're in the same situation tomorrow. We put ourselves in a bad situation, but tomorrow's mindset will be the same: If we lose, there's no other chance to play.'' After grinding series against Chicago and Nashville to reach the conference finals for the first time, Phoenix appeared to be overmatched by the Kings' combination of skill, size and grit. Los Angeles dominated the opener and the Coyotes' frustration spiraled out of control in Game 2 with a flurry of penalties and questionable hits. Phoenix played better in Los Angeles after losing the first two games at home, yet still ended up losing, unable to sustain momentum more than a few shifts at a time. Their season on the line, the Coyotes got back to grind-every-shift ways in Game 4, packing in front of goalie Mike Smith on defense, forechecking to create opportunities on offense and winning the individual battles they had lost in the previous three games. Captain Shane Doan led the way with big hits and two big goals, and Smith had another rise-to-the-moment game in the crease, turning away 36 shots for his third shutout of the playoffs - all on the road. The Coyotes have played through more adversity in three years than some franchises go through, playing without an owner, no money to chase big-name players and with the uncertainty of wondering where they'll play the next season. They also tend to play a by-the-seat-of-their-pants style, weathering their opponents' best shot - often numerous shots - before fighting back with a decisive blow. They played in the NHL's first playoff series to open with five overtime games since 1951 against Chicago. The Coyotes thrive at the brink of calamity and still find themselves on the edge of it, even after finally finding a way to beat the Kings. ''We're in the same boat we were the other night,'' Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. ''If we don't play well and we don't win, we go home.'' And playing at home doesn't necessarily give them an advantage, particularly against Los Angeles. The Kings are 7-0 away from the Staples Center to match an NHL record. They've also won nine straight road playoff games over two seasons, matching the league record set by the New York Islanders, who won Stanley Cup titles in 1982 and 1983 during their streak. Two of those wins were during the West finals. Los Angeles opened with a dominating 4-2 win that could have been worse and handled the Coyotes in Game 2's 4-0 win that featured 13 penalties by Phoenix. The Kings don't change their style just because they're on the road and don't get caught up in where they're playing, so Game 5 is just another game to them. ''Try and win the next game; could be in Tucson or Toledo or in Los Angeles,'' Kings coach Darryl Sutter said before the team left for Phoenix on Monday. ''To me it has no bearing on anything. It's always now, today and tomorrow, not last week, next week.'' And it's not as if the Kings are going to change everything up after losing just one game. They, too, have faced some adversity. Los Angeles struggled early in the season and had to fight just to get into the playoffs. The Kings faced the West's No. 1 seed in the opening round and didn't flinch, fighting back to win Game 5 in Vancouver. Underdogs again in the second round, they blew past St. Louis, sweeping away the No. 2 seed. After all that, giving the third-seeded Coyotes a glimmer of hope certainly isn't going to leave the Kings flustered. If anything, it will likely harden their resolve to get this series over with and move on to the Stanley Cup finals for the first time since 1993. ''I think this team has handled adversity pretty well all year considering the type of year we had,'' Kings captain Dustin Brown said. ''This time of year it's about sticking together. We lost one game. It's a matter of rebounding.''
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

WATCH: Dwight Howard ejected for hanging on rim

NHL rumors: Capitals acquire Blues’ Kevin Shattenkirk in bold trade

Report: Chiefs making ‘strong push’ to make Eric Berry highest-paid safety in NFL

Dana White hints at Conor McGregor's next opponent

Report: Steelers make Brown NFL's highest-paid WR

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Report: Chiefs sign Duvernay-Tardif to five-year extension

MLB considering introducing 'stickier' baseballs

Report: Browns have discussed trading No. 12 pick for Garoppolo

Report: Lowry expected to miss 4-5 weeks, return for playoffs

Report: Cowboys to release Romo in coming weeks

Report: Jennings expected to sign with Hornets

It's time for Satchel Paige Day in Major League Baseball

The best sports movies available to stream right now

Biggest surprises and disappointments of the NBA season

Top 10 shortstops in baseball for 2017

The most dangerous NBA teams flying under the radar

Eat, Drink, Watch: Your award-worthy weekend planning guide

Grading the NBA trade deadline on the Vince Carter scale

As NHL trade deadline nears, seven teams who could be dealing

Box Score 2/24: A night of NBA disrespect

The 'Pete Rose instead of Kareem? Surely, you can't be serious' quiz

Streaming sports docuseries you don't want to miss

Teams that can prevent a Cavs-Warriors NBA Finals three-peat

NHL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

It's time for Satchel Paige Day in MLB

The best sports movies available to stream right now

Biggest surprises and disappointments of the NBA season

As NHL trade deadline nears, seven teams who could be dealing

QUIZ: Name every MLB pitcher to win 20 or more games in a season since 2000

Top 10 shortstops in baseball for 2017

The most dangerous NBA teams flying under the radar

Grading the NBA trade deadline on the Vince Carter scale

Eat, Drink, Watch: Your award-worthy weekend planning guide

Streaming sports docuseries you don't want to miss

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker