By Dave Vest
GLENDALE -- The Coyotes, facing elimination from the Stanley Cup Playoffs for a second time, will battle the Los Angeles Kings in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals at Jobing.com Arena on Tuesday. The puck drops at 6 p.m. (Arizona time).
Phoenix, which trails the best-of-seven series, 3-1, extended it by winning Game 4 on Sunday thanks to a 36-save shutout by goalie Mike Smith
and two goals by captain Shane Doan in a 2-0 victory.
While the Coyotes know only three NHL teams have rallied from a 3-0 deficit to win a playoff series, they are not thinking that far ahead.
“Nobody's looking past tomorrow's game,” Head Coach Dave Tippett said after Monday’s practice. “We have to continue to get better if we're going to have a chance to get ourselves back in the series. That's all we're thinking.”
Smith, who needs one win to tie the franchise record for career postseason victories (10), will start in goal for Phoenix, which is looking to push the series to Game 6 in LA on Thursday.
The Coyotes are hoping top point producer Ray Whitney and top goal scorer Radim Vrbata can break out of scoring slumps in this series; Whitney has one point, Vrbata has zero points.
“I thought they were better last game,” Tippett said. “I thought that was the best game (for their line) in the series. Anything they can do to help chip in would be greatly appreciated.”
Vrbata on Monday said he and his linemates – Whitney and Martin Hanzal – are finding it difficult to generate scoring chances.
“Right now there's not much space out there to create offense,” Vrbata said. “The goals that are happening are usually just lucky bounces or a lucky shot that goes in, not like a set play or anything… You have to keep working hard and hope for your breaks. That's all it is right now it seems.”
The Coyotes are hoping defenseman Adrian Aucoin, who is battling a nagging injury, will be able to play in Game 5. Aucoin played 12:17 before leaving Game 4 because of the same injury that sidelined him for Games 1-3.
Aucoin did not skate with teammates at Monday’s practice.
The Kings will enter Game 5 with a perfect 7-0 record on the road in this year’s playoffs, that includes three wins at No. 1 seed Vancouver and two wins at Jobing.com Arena in Games 1 and 2.
“I really think it's tough to come into a building and do it three times,” Coyotes captain Shane Doan said. “They did it to Vancouver. We acknowledge that. (It will be) tough to do it again."
Despite losing Game 4, LA still boasts the best playoff record with an 11-2 mark, and it has outscored opponents 37-19 in those 13 games.
Photo by Getty Images.
The Kings had a chance to close out the series on home ice on Sunday but failed.
“From a team standpoint, we definitely want to play better than we did in Game 4,” Kings captain Dustin Brown said. “We've been playing pretty good hockey. We're a confident group. We all believe we can be better in Game 5.”
Kings goalie Jonathan Quick is leading the NHL in playoff wins (11), goals-against average (1.46), and save percentage (.948) and ranks third with two shutouts.
Meanwhile, Brown ranks second in playoff scoring with 15 points, center Anze Kopitar is third with 14 points, and Drew Doughty is tied for third among defensemen with eight points.
“We’ve got to play our best game,” Doughty said “Our last couple games we really slacked off, haven't played our best hockey as a team. Going into the next one in their barn, we have to be at our best or things are going to change in the series."
► Click here to watch Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett's press conference after Tuesday's morning skate.
Coyotes captain Shane Doan scored both of his team's goals in Game 4 and co-leads the club with five goals in the playoffs.
Kings captain Dustin Brown leads the team in playoff goals (seven), points (15), shots (43) and plus/minus (plus-12).
Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle ranks tied for third in playoff assists with eight.
Coyotes goalie Mike Smith has posted three shutouts in this year's playoffs. Prior to this season, the Coyotes/Jets franchise had just one playoff shutout - by Nikolai Khabibulin in 1996-97.
Game 5 will be televised on NBC Sports Network and will be broadcast on XTRA Sports 910 AM at 6 p.m. For in-game updates via Twitter, follow @coyotesgameday.