No. 3 Phoenix (42-27-13--97pts) vs. No. 8 Los Angeles (40-27-14--94 pts)
1. There will be plenty of television close-ups of Coyotes 40-year-old Ray Whitney and his quest for a second Stanley Cup (he won his first with the 2005-06 Carolina Hurricanes). But the sentimental favourites in this series will be Kings head coach Darryl Sutter and Phoenix veteran Shane Doan. Only 130 kilometres separate the Sutter farm in Viking, Alta. from Doan's hometown of Halkirk. The 35-year-old Doan played in 1,198 regular season games and another 50 in the playoffs before his first trip to the conference final. Sutter, 53, has coached 909 regular season games and another 110 in playoffs with only one trip to the Stanley Cup final, eight years ago with the Calgary Flames.
2. Has there been any better goaltending through two rounds than from the Kings' Jonathan Quick and his Coyotes counterpart Mike Smith? Smith has been busier of the two, having faced 400 shots to the 274 that have been fired at Quick, but they have similar stats. Quick has a 1.55 goals against average and .949 save percentage, compared to Smith's 1.77 and .948. Smith has recorded two shutouts, one more than Quick. In the regular season, three of the six games between the two teams also resulted in shutouts.
3. The West final will commence at Jobing.com Arena and that suits the Kings just fine. They have gone a perfect 5-0 in road games in the first two rounds to become the first team to win their first five road games in a playoff run since the 2003-04 Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightning went on to win the Stanley Cup against Sutter's Flames that spring.
4. This appears to be Dustin Brown's time. The Kings contemplated moving their captain at the trade deadline, but general manager Dean Lombardi is thankful he changed his mind. Brown is a Conn Smythe Trophy candidate with six goals and 11 points in nine games, including two short-handed goals and two game winners. The 27-year-old Brown also has been a physical force and will be well rested to get back at it.
5. Quick and Smith have been getting most of the credit, and they deserve it. But they both play behind unheralded, effective blue lines. The Kings' top six defenders are Drew Doughty, Matt Greene, Alex Martinez, Willie Mitchell, Rob Scuderi and Slava Voynov. The Coyotes blue-liners include Adrian Aucoin, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Rostislav Klesla, Derek Morris, Michal Rozsival, and Keith Yandle. Both teams have yielded plenty of shots - 36.4 a game for Phoenix and 30.4 for Los Angeles - but those totals have been misleading. Both teams keep the second-chance opportunities to a minimum.
Season series: Kings 3-1-2.
Oct. 20 - Kings 2-0 at Phoenix
Oct. 29 - Coyotes 3-2 (OT) at Phoenix
Dec. 26 - Kings 4-3 at Los Angeles
Jan. 05 - Kings 1-0 (OT) at Los Angeles
Feb. 16 - Coyotes 1-0 at Los Angeles
Feb. 21 - Coyotes 5-4 (SO) at Phoenix
Prediction - Coyotes in seven.
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