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

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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

Blues have ‘wiggle room’ after locking up Parayko

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The St. Louis Blues didn’t break the bank to keep Colton Parayko for five more years, and that’s important since they don’t believe the NHL’s salary cap will rise significantly in the next little while.

Parayko’s cap hit came in at a manageable $5.5 million, as the two sides narrowly avoided an arbitration hearing that was scheduled for today.

“You like to have as much wiggle room as possible,” GM Doug Armstrong said, per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Now we view the cap will stay flat for the foreseeable future. We’re content with the space we have. We’ll move forward and get ready for training camp.”

The Blues now have a number of key players locked up long term, including Parayko, Alex Pietrangelo, Vladimir Tarasenko, Alex Steen, Jaden Schwartz, Patrik Berglund, and Jake Allen.

For Armstrong, the next big decision could involve Paul Stastny, the 31-year-old center who can become an unrestricted free agent next summer.

But a decision on Stastny doesn’t need to be made now, or even before the season starts. It’s the trade deadline that could be the real pressure point, akin to the Kevin Shattenkirk situation this past year.

Per CapFriendly, the Blues have just over $3 million in cap space, with one roster spot left to fill.

‘Highly unlikely’ Suns will pursue shared arena with Coyotes

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The Arizona Coyotes appear to be on their own in pursuit of a new arena in the Phoenix area.

That’s because Robert Sarver, the owner of the NBA’s Phoenix Suns, says it’s “highly unlikely” he’ll pursue a shared arena with the Coyotes.

Instead, Sarver is focused on upgrading the Suns’ current home (and Coyotes’ old home) in downtown Phoenix, Talking Stick Resort Arena.

From the Arizona Republic:

Sarver said building a new arena would have “maybe made more sense” four or five years ago when the cost estimate was $450 million to $500 million. The costs now, Sarver said, are “significantly higher.” Thus his focus on upgrading Talking Stick, which soon will be the second-oldest arena in the NBA.

“I think it’s the most economically viable alternative for the city and us,” he said. “I like downtown Phoenix. That’s my first preference. I think the NBA is more of an urban game. That’s our demographic.”

Talking Stick Resort Arena, formerly called America West Arena when the Coyotes played there, was designed for basketball and isn’t ideal for hockey. In that way, it’s a lot like Barclays Center in Brooklyn, which hasn’t been a great fit for the Islanders.

The Coyotes recently hired a new president and CEO, Steve Patterson, whose top priority is finding the team a new home in the Phoenix area.

Crosby to celebrate 30th birthday with Stanley Cup in Nova Scotia

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HALIFAX, Nova Scotia (AP) Sidney Crosby will mark his 30th birthday by once again parading the Stanley Cup in his province.

In tweets sent out by the Sidney Crosby Hockey School, Crosby said he would hoist the trophy in the streets of Halifax and Dartmouth as part of an annual civic parade.

“Get ready, the Stanley cup is coming to town!” Crosby confirmed in the tweet sent late Tuesday night. “I will be taking Lord Stanley to the streets Monday August 7th in the Halifax-Dartmouth Natal Day parade.”

The parade, part of annual events that celebrate Halifax’s birthday, also happens to fall on the Pittsburgh Penguins captain’s 30th birthday.

Natal Day chairman Greg Hayward said he expects another 25,000 people will be lining the parade route on top of the roughly 40,000 usual attendees.

“It’s extremely exciting to think that we’re going to have Sid and the Cup in our Natal Day parade,” Hayward said Wednesday.

Crosby has shown off the Stanley Cup twice before in his hometown of Cole Harbour, just outside Dartmouth, in 2009 and 2016.

Last July, Crosby carried the Cup in the back of a pickup that made its way to an arena in Cole Harbour as thousands of cheering fans looked on in sweltering heat.

Arbitration hearing looming for Arvidsson, who broke out in big way last year

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Viktor Arvidsson wants a one-year deal worth $4.5 million, while the Nashville Predators are countering with a two-year deal worth $5.5 million ($2.75 million AAV).

That’s the situation with an arbitration hearing scheduled for Saturday, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.

The two sides could still reach a deal before each case is heard.

Arvidsson, 24, broke out in a big way last year, scoring 31 goals during the regular season, then helping the Preds to their first Stanley Cup Final in franchise history.

But Nashville needs to be careful with its cap situation, because Ryan Johansen also needs a new contract, and he won’t be cheap to re-sign.

Arvidsson just wrapped up his entry-level contract.