By Dave Vest
LOS ANGELES -- The Coyotes, facing elimination from the Stanley Cup Playoffs, will square off against the Los Angeles Kings in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals at the Staples Center on Sunday. The puck drops at noon (Arizona time).
Phoenix trails LA, 3-0, in the best-of-seven series, which the Kings have dominated with an aggressive forecheck and stingy defense.
Only three NHL teams have rallied from a 3-0 deficit to win a playoff series – Toronto in 1942, the New York Islanders in 1975 and Philadelphia in 2010.
“We understand what we're up against,” Coyotes forward Ray Whitney said on Saturday. “You can mope around, feel sorry for yourself if you want. It's not going to do you any good… Not too long ago Philly came back and beat Boston down 3-0. You can't look at stuff like that. You really focus on winning one game against a very good hockey team. We'll take it from there if we get that done tomorrow."
Mike Smith will start in goal for the Coyotes, who have scored just six goals in the past six games.
Center Martin Hanzal, who missed Game 3 because of a one-game suspension handed down by the NHL for boarding Dustin Brown in Game 2, will be back in the lineup for the Coyotes. Defenseman Adrian Aucoin, who has yet to play in this series because of an undisclosed injury, has declared himself ready to play.
The Coyotes did not practice on Friday but they did on Saturday. The practice featured a business-like approach.
“There's a never-say-die attitude with this group,” Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said after practice. “(There’s) no time to worry about what's happened in the past. We’ve got to go win a hockey game now.”
“We just have to find a way to win a game,” Doan said. “This group has done it, performed, when everything seems to be against it time and time again. That track record I think gives you confidence to know that we're capable of doing it.”
The Kings, who will be trying to secure a berth in the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1993, have taken a 3-0 lead in each of their three playoff series.
Jonathan Quick, who has allowed just 17 goals in LA’s 12 playoff games, will be back in goal as the Kings, the No. 8 seed, look to continue an improbable playoff run. They’ve already eliminated No. 1 seed Vancouver and No. 2 seed St. Louis. The Coyotes are the No. 3 seed in the conference playoffs.
Photo by Getty Images.
"We've played three pretty good games against them, but we know we can play better," Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said. "We know this next game is going to be their best, especially that first five minutes. We have to be prepared from the drop."
Kings center Anze Kopitar will enter the game with a six-game point streak.
Forward Colin Fraser, who missed the past two games to attend to a personal matter, is expected to be back in the lineup for the Kings.
Tippett, per usual, said he's not concerned with who is or isn't going to be in LA's lineup in Game 4. He is more concerned with the players on his roster and watching them raise the bar to the level at which the Kings are performing.
"LA has certainly played well," Tippett said. "I think our execution can be so much better. We've had opportunities to make some plays, whether it be on the power play or five-on-five, and we're not getting those plays made."
He added, "The ability to execute under pressure and make good plays, the ability to win one-on-one battles to keep puck possession. Those are areas we have to get better at."
► Click here to watch Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett's press conference after Saturday's practice.
Coyotes center Daymond Langkow scored Phoenix's goal in Game 3 and delivered five of the team's 39 hits.
Kings left wing Dwight King is averaging one goal per game in his last five games of the Stanley Cup Playoff games.
Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett began his NHL coaching career as an assistant with the Kings in 1999. He spent three seasons on LA's staff.
Game 4 will be the fifth of six games played at the Staples Center in a four-day span.
Game 4 will be televised on NBC and will be broadcast on XTRA Sports 910 AM at noon. For in-game updates via Twitter, follow @coyotesgameday.