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Western Conference finals at a glance: Phoenix-Los Angeles playoff preview

May 8, 2012, 11:52 AM EDT

Coyotes Kings

Schedule

All times Eastern; *if necessary

Game 1: Sunday, May 13 at Phoenix, 8 p.m. (NBCSN)
Game 2: Tuesday, May 15 at Phoenix, 9 p.m. (NBCSN)
Game 3: Thursday, May 17 at Los Angeles, 9 p.m. (NBCSN)
Game 4: Sunday, May 20 at Los Angeles, 3 p.m. (NBCSN, CBC)
Game 5: *Tuesday, May 22 at Phoenix, 9 p.m. (NBCSN, CBC)
Game 6: *Thursday, May 24 at Los Angeles, 9 p.m. (NBCSN, CBC)
Game 7: *Saturday, May 26 at Phoenix, 8 p.m. (TBD, CBC)

Three storylines to follow

1. The goaltending. Early punditry figures this series will be decided in net, where Jonathan Quick and Mike Smith have been their teams’ MVPs thus far (and two of the leading Conn Smythe candidates as well.) Being Pacific Division rivals, the two have faced off numerous times this season, reflected in their statistics:

Quick vs. Phoenix: 3-1-2, 9.32 save percentage, 1.79 GAA, two shutouts

Smith vs. L.A.: 3-1-1, .938 save percentage, 1.76 GAA, one shutout.

2. The rivalry. A full season of scrapping in the airtight Pacific resulted in these two disliking each other a great deal. Most of the malice stems from a Feb. 16 game in Los Angeles that featured the following chain of events:

Dustin Brown taking out Rostislav Klesla with a high hit (Klesla missed 10 games as a result.)

Shane Doan fighting Brown.

Martin Hanzal fighting Mike Richards.

Raffi Torres fighting Colin Fraser.

Paul Bissonnette fighting Kevin Westgarth.

Two weeks later — in the sixth and final regular season tilt — Kings forward Kyle Clifford was given five and a game for a headshot on Phoenix’s Gilbert Brule.

3. The travel. “I think it’s pretty obvious that Phoenix would definitely be the better team from a travel standpoint,” Kings captain Dustin Brown said prior to the Coyotes’ defeating Nashville. “Being an hour flight or less there and back — that’s the only obvious advantage to Phoenix.”

While last year’s Western Conference final between Vancouver and San Jose was a booking agent’s dream — the two cities are a two-hour flight apart and share a time zone — it hasn’t always been that way:

2010: Chicago and San Jose (1835 miles apart)
2008: Detroit and Dallas (998 miles apart)
2007: Anaheim and Detroit (1968 miles apart)

It’s roughly 350 miles between Los Angeles and Phoenix.

And then another 10 to Glendale.

Records (reg. season)

No. 3 Phoenix: 42-27-13, 97 points (1st in Pacific) | No. 8 LA: 40-27-15, 95 points (3rd in Pacific)

Leading playoff scorers

Phoenix: Antoine Vermette (5G-4A-9PTS) | LA: Dustin Brown (6G-5A-11PTS)

Starting goalies

Phoenix: Mike Smith (8-3, 1.77 GAA) | LA: Jonathan Quick (8-1, 1.55 GAA)

Head-to-head

Season series tied 3-3

Oct. 20: Los Angeles 2, at Phoenix 0
Oct. 29: at Phoenix 3, Los Angeles 2, SO
Dec. 26: at Los Angeles 4, Phoenix 3
Jan. 5: at Los Angeles 1, Phoenix 0, OT
Feb. 16: Phoenix 1, at Los Angeles 0
Feb. 21: at Phoenix 5, Los Angeles 4, SO

Playoff history

First meeting

2012 playoffs

Phoenix: Def. Chicago 4-2 (WC quarters), def. Nashville 4-1 (WC semis) | LA: Def. Vancouver 4-1 (WC quarters), def. St. Louis 4-0 (WC semis)

2011 playoffs

Phoenix:  Lost to Detroit 4-0 (WC quarters) | L.A.: Lost to San Jose 4-2 (WC quarters)

Stanley Cups

Phoenix: None | Los Angeles: None

Injuries

Phoenix: Raffi Torres (suspension), Kurt Sauer (concussion) | Los Angeles: Scott Parse (hip), Kevin Westgarth (hand), SimonGagne (concussion)

Poll

  1. dallasstars9 - May 8, 2012 at 12:10 PM

    Who said the Pacific Division wasn’t the most competitive division in the NHL. Oh if only the Stars had made the playoffs. Oh well, I’ve gotten over it! Anyway, as much as it pains me to say this, I think the Kings have too much scoring and will take this series in 6.

  2. geostrophically - May 8, 2012 at 12:58 PM

    There weren’t a lot of goals between the Blues and the Kings in the regular season, but many in the post-season.

    This series between the Coyotes and the Kings better be entertaining.

  3. barkar942 - May 8, 2012 at 1:12 PM

    We could have 7 record setting 8 overtime 1-0 final scores! And it is starting to look like a Marty-Hank series in the east. Gonna be a lot of OT!

  4. ihateclevelandandphillyandbaltimore - May 8, 2012 at 1:18 PM

    Kings in 6 and and kings in 6 in the finals. It’s just there time and quick is clearly the difference.

  5. lsxphotog - May 8, 2012 at 2:24 PM

    As much as I don’t really care to see the Kings do anything with Carter and Richards, that team is clicking and made the Blues look like the Blue Jackets last series…not good for Phoenix. It should be an interesting series that will tell its story in the first game.

  6. buffalomafia - May 8, 2012 at 3:34 PM

    I agree the Kings in 6!

  7. comeonnowguys - May 8, 2012 at 3:35 PM

    Well, if Mike Smith plays even hotter than he has the first two rounds, the Coyotes have a chance.

    Otherwise, sweep. Kings also have a hot goalie with better skaters.

  8. saintmac9 - May 8, 2012 at 5:05 PM

    Everyone said Nashville would beat Phoenix but look what happened. It’s a tough series with both teams playing well but coyotes in 7

  9. blomfeld - May 8, 2012 at 9:57 PM

    “And then another 10 to Glendale” ? …

    Not if your driving into town from LA, in which case the distance is only 340 miles ! :) In all seriousness, I say that our Kings take this thing in six at the most, though probably in five. Nonetheless, I do sense that there’s a very real danger here that Bettman &company are going to have a say as to who wins ? This concerns me very much, as I wouldn’t put it past this weasel to “have a word” with the officiating committee. Time will tell I suppose … and if the good Lord has anything to do with things, then this weasel’s “furtive and cunning” shenanigans will be dealt with “head on” !

    GO KINGS GO ! :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :)

  10. highlander24 - May 8, 2012 at 10:17 PM

    GO KINGS GO!!!!!!!!

  11. darksidecowboy - May 9, 2012 at 3:29 PM

    The consensus from the media to most on this board is the Kings , some say sweep. Please talk about facing the Rangers/Devils for the Cup finals, I beg you.The underdog pack mentality the Coyotes have is working well. They know they don’t get the respect, but it doesn’t matter. They play their own game, and capitalize on other teams mistakes every time. Smith is a force and will give LA fits just like the Hawks and Preds. So please Kings fans, be the cocky fans you are, and enjoy this. We know this will be a real physical, suspension worthy type of series with low goals. May the best team win.

    The DESERT STORM is coming to LA.

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