The Red Wings have finally started to play the way that many Red Wings fans expected them to when the season first began. After a fairly lackluster performance over the first four games of the season, the Red Wings have fired off four straight wins and now are searching for their fifth consecutive.[singlepic id=77 w=484 h=280 float=center]
Matchup: Detroit Red Wings vs. Phoenix Coyotes
Venue: Jobing.com Arena; Phoenix, AZ
Time: 9:00 PM EST
Television: Detroit- FSD; Phoenix- FS-Arizona
When the Detroit Red Wings (6-2-0, 12 points, 1st place Atlantic Division) learned a few games ago that starting goaltender Jimmy Howard had a bruised hand and was unable to play, the hope was that his backup could be steady in net while the offense carried the team. In that time, Jonas Gustavsson has been nothing less than amazing and the offense has contributed big time to help the Red Wings to a four game win streak. They will now look to push that streak to five games when they travel to Phoenix to take on the Phoenix Coyotes (4-2-2, 10 points, 4th place Pacific Division).
The last time the Red Wings and the Coyotes met, the Coyotes dominated play and were able to come away with a 4-2 victory at Joe Louis Arena back on October 10th. The Red Wings were unable to get any contribution from their top lines in that game and failed to score any powerplay goals. The Red Wings were able to take a 2-1 lead early in the second period, but the Coyotes were able to score three consecutive goals to earn the victory and push the Red Wings into a two game losing streak.
Since that loss, the Red Wings have been able to get consistent offense combined with solid goaltending during their four game win streak. In the streak, the Red Wings have not given up more than two goals in any game and have scored a total of 14 goals in that span after scoring only 5 goals in the previous three games.
The Coyotes come into this game on a two game losing streak after winning their three previous games. Offense has been somewhat of an issue for the Coyotes this season. They have scored more than three goals in only two games, both wins. When they have lost, they have only scored 3 goals in one game.
The Red Wings will be without Niklas Kronwall tonight after he suffered a mild concussion on a boarding hit in Thursday's victory over Colorado. This will stretch out the Red Wings defense even more than it already is so the Red Wings will need strong goaltending tonight.
The Red Wings will be getting starting goaltender Jimmy Howard back in net after he has missed the past three games with a bruised hand. Jonas Gustavsson was surprisingly fantastic in his three consecutive relief roles. He posted a 3-0-0 record with a .953 save percentage and a 1.67 GAA. Howard will be seeking his third win of the season tonight and his first since the night he went down with his hand injury.
Phoenix will counter with Mike Smith in net tonight. Smith earned the victory in the Coyotes last win against the Red Wings on the 10th, and has posted a 3-2-1 record with a 2.96 GAA and .913 save percentage in seven games played this season.
If the Red Wings are able to get the offense to continue to click, they shouldn't have to rely on a defense missing their top defender. The Coyotes have struggled at times this season to score goals so if the Red Wings can get a sizable lead, it may be too much for the Coyotes to overcome.