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Coyotes, down 3-0, can't give up hope

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- For three years now, coach Dave Tippett has kept the Phoenix Coyotes together when they had every off-ice reason to fall apart. When they struggled to fill their rink, when the bankrupt franchise seemed headed to Winnipeg, Tippett and his players kept improving and winning.

Now that they're stuck in a 0-3 hole in the Western Conference finals against an opponent seemingly touched by playoff destiny, Tippett and the Coyotes still aren't folding against maybe their longest odds yet.

In Game 4 today, the Los Angeles Kings will attempt to clinch just their second trip to the Stanley Cup final. The Coyotes still haven't given up hope of reaching their first.

"There's nothing to say now," Tippett said after the Coyotes' workout. "We've got to win. Hopefully we can push it back to Phoenix and keep the series going."

Only three NHL teams have overcome this daunting deficit, but Phoenix is confident it has resources it hasn't tapped while getting outscored 10-3 so far by the eighth-seeded Kings, who have lost just once in 12 playoff games.

"Being down 3-0 is a big enough mountain, and then this team is rolling pretty good," Coyotes forward Ray Whitney said of the Kings. "We realize how difficult it's going to be, but we're not throwing everything in."

But the Coyotes have thrived under those dire circumstances ever since Tippett took over from Wayne Gretzky in 2009. With financial worries and tiny crowds -- Phoenix was last in the NHL in attendance this season -- the Coyotes have made three straight playoff appearances.

"We've had that motivation for most of the year," Whitney said.

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