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The Desert Dog Blog: Idle Coyotes Can Clinch Playoff Berth Tonight

Thursday, 04.05.2012 / 4:56 PM / Features
By Dave Vest
GLENDALE -- The Coyotes headed to St. Louis this afternoon on a regular season-ending two-game trip that starts with a match against the Blues on Friday night and concludes with a game against the Minnesota Wild on Saturday night.

Despite being idle tonight, Phoenix could clinch its third consecutive berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs if the Nashville Predators defeat the Dallas Stars in any fashion. That game is being played at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. The puck drops at 5 p.m. (Arizona time).

Just before their flight to St. Louis, I spoke to some of the Coyotes and they all said they would be monitoring tonight’s game in Nashville - and tonight's game between Pacific Division rivals Los Angeles and San Jose - very closely.

Shane Doan
Captain Shane Doan summed it up best: “It’s pretty much impossible not to care. We’re going to be very aware of what’s going on around the League (tonight).”

With two games to go, the Coyotes are not only trying to qualify for the playoffs but to win the Pacific Division title for the first time.

“We still have a chance and we’re going to go for it,” Doan said.

► Click here to see the latest Pacific Division standings.

• Phoenix is 1-4-1 vs. St. Louis and Minnesota this season, but the Coyotes are taking a clean-slate approach to this weekend.

“We’ve had two good practices here so that’s a positive sign,” Head Coach Dave Tippett said before today’s flight. “The players recognize the situation and the urgency needed, and the areas we have to clean up (for these games). Now it’s just a matter of getting on the ice and doing it.”

He added, “It’s a fun part of the year and we need to embrace it.”

Despite having watched his team win three games in a row, Tippett has not been pleased with the way his team has played. Knowing this, I asked Tippett to identify a victory in recent history the players could use as a blueprint for success.

“Hopefully that game is tomorrow,” he said.

Mike Smith
• Coyotes goalie Mike Smith will enter Friday’s game seeking his fourth consecutive shutout. Smith has made 155 saves since last allowing a goal; according to The Elias Sports Bureau, that’s an NHL high since saves were first kept in 1976-77.

I asked Smith to the explain the key to his recent success.

“I haven’t changed anything really as far as preparation, I’ve just been going in there and really focusing on making the first save,” Smith said. “The guys have done a great job in front of me clearing the rebounds and boxing out and stuff like that. But what’s gone on in the past is done now. I’m just looking forward to tomorrow night.”

FYI, Friday’s game at St. Louis is being televised nationally on NBC Sports Network (formerly Versus). It is also on XTRA Sports 910 (AM).

EDITOR'S NOTE: Contact Dave Vest at thedesertdogblog@phoenixcoyotes.com and follow him on Twitter @davest4yotes.
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