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Kings, Coyotes are ready to drop the puck now

May 10, 2012|By Helene Elliott
  • Kings center Anze Kopitar controls the puck in front of Phoenix defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson during a game in February.
Kings center Anze Kopitar controls the puck in front of Phoenix defenseman… (Paul Connors / Associated…)

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The NHL, unable to figure out the schedule for the conference finals beyond the first two games in the West or the East, got organized enough on Thursday to conduct a conference call that featured West coaches Darryl Sutter of the Kings and Dave Tippett of the Phoenix Coyotes and their respective captains, Dustin Brown and Shane Doan, taking questions from reporters.

The Kings have been idle since Sunday, when they completed a sweep of the St. Louis Blues. The Coyotes have been off since Monday, when they finished a five-game elimination of the Nashville Predators. Their matchup will start Sunday at Arena in Glendale, Ariz., at 5 p.m. Pacific time and continue there on Tuesday at 6 p.m. Pacific time. Both games will air on NBC Sports Network.

The first two games at Staples Center could be Thursday-Sunday or Friday-Sunday, but there’s no telling when that — or the entire schedule — will be announced. The East finals will open Monday and Wednesday, with the New Jersey Devils facing the winner of Saturday’s second-round finale between the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers.

“Does it bug me that we have to wait till Sunday to play? Definitely. I’d rather play today,” Brown said. “It’s one of those things where just the way the scheduling works and trying to put it on national TV and the East going as long as it is.

“It’s part of getting yourself ready. But from a playing standpoint, I think if you ask any player, both on Phoenix and L.A., they wish we were playing tomorrow night.”
Coyotes Coach Dave Tippett said he understood the complications posed by schedule conflicts at Staples Center.

“With Los Angeles’ situation with two basketball teams playing and the Kings playing I think there will be a lot of read-and-react here,” he said. “You always have to be able to adjust.”
He already has adjusted: He said he had been initially preparing for a Saturday start but changed his plans to account for an extra day’s wait.

The Kings will practice in El Segundo on Friday, fly to Phoenix on Saturday and practice Saturday afternoon at Arena. It was suggested to Sutter that playing Phoenix, which is about an hour’s flight away, should create fewer travel problems than the Kings might have encountered flying to Nashville.

“I thought that was one of the breaks of playing in the Western Conference. You got a little less travel, like the East,” he said dryly.

That unique Sutter humor surface again when it was mentioned flying to Phoenix is perhaps the shortest journey the Kings could have gotten, short of facing Anaheim.

“God bless Los Angeles and Phoenix,” Sutter said.

One more Sutterism: The Kings’ coach was asked whether he’d be confident in playing Jonathan Bernier if something were to happen to Jonathan Quick. “Absolutely,” Sutter said. “He’s next in line and then there’s Ron Hextall and Billy Ranford. Both of them have won the Conn Smythe so Bernie has his work cut out.”

Hextall is the team’s assistant general manager and Ranford is the goaltending coach.

There were no revelations during the call and both teams seemed eager to embrace the role of underdog when asked which should be favored in this series.

“It hasn’t bothered us much yet, so we’re fine where we are,” Tippett said of his team’s underdog status. “It was very competitive all year in our division. We won the last couple of games of the regular season to get the third seed, which is turned out to be very important to us for home-ice advantage.

“Our team, I think a lot of people always view us as a smaller-market team that’s in the hunt but nobody views us as a contender. I look at our game as kind of evolved over the last part of the regular season and into the playoffs, where we have the confidence we can beat anybody. We recognized that we’ll probably always be looked at as the underdog, but hasn’t changed for us in about the last three years so we’re comfortable in that mode.”

Sutter wasn’t buying that.

“Phoenix won the division. We finished close to them,” he said. “It doesn’t really matter. They get the extra game at home. That makes them the favorite.”

Doan, 35, is the last remaining player left from the team’s Winnipeg origins. He had never advanced past the second round until this spring, and it was a new and welcome experience after being accustomed to watching TV this time of year instead of playing.

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