GLENDALE – With the Pacific Division title firmly in hand,
the Coyotes re-assembled at Jobing.com Arena on Monday to
start preparations for their first-round Stanley Cup
Playoff series vs. Chicago.
Only a handful of players skated while the rest did off-
ice workouts and interviews. All players are expected on
the ice Tuesday with Game 1 looming on Thursday at
The Coyotes secured home-ice advantage in the series by
winning the first division title in franchise history on
Saturday with a 4-1 win at Minnesota.
That historic feat was a hot topic on Monday, but forward
Raffi Torres, who has reached the Stanley Cup Final with
two other teams, suggests he and his teammates quickly put
the division title hoopla to bed.
“I think the sooner we can forget about it the better it
is for us,” Torres said. “It’s just something that
happened. We played well but it’s done with. There’s a lot
more work to come to reach the ultimate goal.”
The Coyotes have won five games in a row and outscored
opponents 16-2 in those games.
Goalie Mike Smith, who on Monday was named the NHL’s No. 1
Star of the Week, has been the key contributor.
Asked if he is ready for the pressure that accompanies the
playoffs, Smith, who has just three Stanley Cup Playoffs
games on his resume, said yes.
“I’m not going to change what I’ve done so far because
it’s playoffs,” Smith said. “I think I’ve approached every
game the same and I’m going to do that (again) starting
with Game 1 on Thursday. I have to play the same kind of
hockey I’ve been playing. Hopefully that’s good enough.”
Forward Radim Vrbata likes the way the Coyotes stopped
relying on Smith in the last games of the regular season
and scored eight goals in those games with so much at
“Now it seems like we have everybody contributing,” Vrbata
said. “I feel like we’ve gotten our game to where it needs
to be. Hopefully that will translate into Thursday’s
• Because they won the division, the Coyotes are the No. 3
seed in the Western Conference playoffs with 97 points.
The Blackhawks, who earned 101 points but finished fourth
in the Central Division, are the No. 6 seed. Because they
earned more points, many so-called experts have tabbed the
Blackhawks as the favorite to win the series and the
Coyotes as the underdog.
Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle doesn’t seem to mind the
“The good thing for me is I don’t read too much of the
press clippings and stuff like that,” Yandle said. “I
think we just have to worry about what we’ve got to do. We
know we have a great team in here … and I think we’ll be
• Defenseman Adrian Aucoin, who missed the past two games
because of a minor injury, is expected to play on
Thursday. Aucoin played two seasons for Chicago (2005-07)
and served as captain of the Blackhawks during that time.
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