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Pregame Skate: Who will set the tempo in Game 1 of West finals?

By Brian Stubits | Hockey writer

8 ET, Los Angeles at Phoenix, Game 1 (NBC Sports Network)

Well here it is, the unlikeliest of Western Conference finals when the postseason began in most people's books get under way Sunday night.

Just because it's an unlikely pairing of pre-playoff underdogs doesn't mean we aren't in store for a heck of a series. For my money these have been the best two teams in the playoffs. For the Kings that's no stretch at all and it shouldn't be for the Coyotes either. Put another way, don't worry about who is hotter coming into this series, they're both as hot as the weather outside in Phoenix.

As you're well aware, this series features two awesome goaltenders. They have received a lot of attention, and deservedly so. Mike Smith of Phoenix has been especially noteworthy and noticeable with his stupendous play between the pipes.

Just don't sleep on the guys who will be doing the scoring. Often times in the playoffs they say the goaltenders are the difference. But here, with two goalies who seem to be evenly excellent, it would seem appropriate to say the skaters are going to be the difference.

That's why my inclination coming into this series is to lean to the Kings. Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar and Mike Richards -- heck, even Dustin Penner to an extent -- have been very, very good through the first two rounds.

However this is a new round. Players will tell you there isn't a whole lot of momentum going game to game, let alone series to series. Especially when the teams have had to wait as long as they have. That means those "x-factors" like rust that you often hear about are out the window. Both teams are close to equally rested/rusted. A lot of the intangibles are close to even going into Game 1.

One that isn't, obviously, is home-ice advantage. Phoenix doesn't make for a very good regular-season atmosphere in the least, but in the postseason? It's one of the very best in the sport with the full house and white outs. The Coyotes took all three at home in the second round against the Predators and are 4-2 at Jobing.com Arena in the playoffs.

Of course, the Kings are perfect away from home in the postseason. Again, the trends lead to a stalemate.

By their very definition, Game 1s are tempo setters, Perhaps this one feels like even more of a trend-setting than ,mostly because of the close comparisons coming in.

Daily miscellany

  • Patrick Kane had a visit to Madison, Wis. for Cinco de Mayo that drew plenty of attention from Deadspin. Now it's being suggested he tone it down. (Chicago Sun Times)
  • Is Sergey Fedorov about to begin his career in the front office over in the KHL as a GM in Moscow? (Puck Daddy)
  • Remember when we showed you the photo of David Booth posing with a bear he hunted? Well he tweeted a link to a video with it for Canadian TV, too, adding you have the right not to watch the same as he has the right to hunt.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

 
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