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Coyotes’ Derek Stepan talks playoff race and Kuemper’s performance

Arizona Coyotes' Derek Stepan (21) is checked by Edmonton Oilers' Alex Chiasson, rear, during the first period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019, in Edmonton, Alberta. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press via AP)

The Coyotes are down to their last three games of the regular season, and every one of them is of the utmost importance.

The team currently trails the Colorado Avalanche by a single point in the race for the last wild card spot in the Western Conference (though Colorado has played one less game), and they have some work to do if they want to make the playoffs for the first time since 2012.

Coyotes center Derek Stepan discussed the playoff race with Burns & Gambo on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station Monday afternoon, and talked about whether or not the team will be keeping an eye on the other playoff hopefuls down the stretch.

“I think you try to block it out when you have 10 games left, but when it’s this low, it starts to paint a picture a little bit in the sense of what needs to happen and how it needs to break down,” Stepan said when asked how much he’s thought about the Coyotes’ possible playoff scenarios.

“There will definitely be some serious scoreboard watching here the next few games.”

Stepan also discussed whether the Coyotes’ contest against the Western Conference-worst Kings on Tuesday could possibly be a trap game that could catch them by surprise.

“There are no easy games at this point of the year, I don’t care what teams’ records are,” Stepan said. “I think everyone has something to play for and I know our group has had some conversations already about the importance of this game.

“We’re not taking it any different than we had the last three with Chicago, Colorado and Minnesota. We have to view it that way as a playoff do-or-die.”

Finally, Stepan talked about the excellent play of goaltender Darcy Kuemper, who shut out the Wild (the team directly behind the Coyotes in the standings) on Sunday to keep the Coyotes’ playoff hopes alive.

“He’s by far been our best player in the past 20 games or so,” Stepan said. “Anytime you got your goaltender stopping everything he sees, you’re gonna give yourself a real good chance to crawl back into things.”

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