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Matchup: Phoenix Coyotes vs. Detroit Red Wings
Venue: Joe Louis Arena; Detroit, MI
Time: 7:30 PM EST
Television: Detroit- FSD; National- NBC Sports Network
With only four games remaining in the regular season, the Detroit Red Wings (20-16-8, 48 points, 9th place Western Conference) find themselves searching for points that will help them get into the playoffs for a 22nd consecutive season. They hope that those points will come at the expense of the Phoenix Coyotes (19-17-8, 47 points, 11th place Western Conference) when they come to Joe Louis Arena for the last meeting of the season between the two clubs.
The Red Wings were looking like a lock to go to the playoffs less than a month ago until they found trouble scoring goals and winning games consistently. Since a three game winning streak from March 22-25th, the Red Wings have compiled a 3-5-3 record which has made them one of the teams on the outside looking in on the playoffs. A Blue Jackets victory last night has moved the deficit to three points with four games remaining. The offense has been a major issue for the Red Wings as they have scored only 19 goals in those 11 games. The latest display of the offensive struggles came in Saturday night’s shootout loss to the Vancouver Canucks which they lost 2-1 after failing to score any goals in the shootout after firing 30 shots on net and having multiple chances to take the lead at the end of regulation. The struggles on offense were on display in the first two games of the season series against the Coyotes as well. In the first two games, the Red Wings were only able to score five goals. The Red Wings still have the advantage over the Blue Jackets of games in hand. To this point, the Red Wings have played 44 games to Columbus’ 46. The Red Wings must take at least two out of the three at home if they wish to move onto the playoffs.
The Coyotes still have playoff hopes after a big shootout win against the Chicago Blackhawks. The victory kept the Coyotes within three points of the final playoff spot and only two points behind the Red Wings. The victory ended a three game losing streak for the Coyotes that made it look as though they were all but done in the playoff conversation. Despite losing three of the past five games, the Coyotes were able to grab points in two of those losses and they have gone 5-2-3 in their past ten games overall. If the Coyotes want to remain in the playoff picture, this is a must win game for them. A loss puts them five points out with only three games remaining. If they are to win, they will need to forget about the struggles they have had on the road this season. On the road, they have gone only 6-9-7 this season thus far and they will still have one road game remaining after tonight’s game.
The Red Wings will once again turn to Jimmy Howard in net who played a fairly strong game against Vancouver the other night despite the Canucks only having 13 total shots on net. The Red Wings will be without forward Drew Miller for the remainder of the season after he broke his hand on a blocked shot in the 2-1 loss to Vancouver Saturday night. Taking his place will be Patrick Eaves.
The Coyotes are expected to counter with Jason LaBarbera who will start in place of the injured Mike Smith. LaBarbera started the first match of the season between the two teams which ended in a 3-2 Red Wings victory.
This will be the third and final matchup of the season between the two teams and thus far it has been a split in the season series with the first two games taking place at Jobing.com Arena in Arizona. In the first contest, the Red Wings were able to skate away with a 3-2 victory thanks in part to two powerplay goals in the game. The second game did not fare too well for the Red Wings like the first did. After scoring an early powerplay goal to take the lead, the Coyotes answered with three consecutive goals for a lead they would not relinquish despite the Red Wings firing 36 shots on net.
This is the final contest of the two teams as Western Conference opponents, and in the past few seasons a rivalry has budded aided in part to the gritty playoff series that the two teams played against each other seemingly almost every year. The atmosphere at Joe Louis Arena tonight for this final matchup of the season will be one of playoff intensity mainly due to the fact that both teams are fighting for survival to get in.
Players To Watch:
- Pavel Datsyuk currently leads the Red Wings in points (41) and goals (13). He has also enjoyed some success against the Coyotes this season, putting up two points (1 goal, 1 assist) in the two games against them. In his career, Datsyuk has dominated the Coyotes, posting 57 points (14 goals, 43 assists) in 40 games. Look for Datsyuk to step up and do what he does best as he trys to help carry his team into the postseason.
- Henrik Zetterberg will be crucial for the Red Wings in the last few games of the season if the Red Wings are to make the playoffs. Zetterberg currently leads the Red Wings in assists with 29 and has accumulated 2 assists in the two games against the Coyotes this season. Zetterberg is the other Detroit star who has dominated the Coyotes in his career, posting 43 points (17 goals, 26 assists) in only 36 games.
- Shane Doan is a player that is not greatly liked in the city of Detroit, thanks in part to the style of play he has showed in the past playoff series against the Red Wings. That aside, it is hard to not notice his hockey skills. Though on a down year, Doan is leading the Coyotes with 13 goals and has added 11 assists for 24 points in 44 games played. He always plays Detroit tough, so expect him to be very active in the game tonight.
- Mikkel Boedker currently leads the Coyotes in points with 25 and has tallied two assists in the two games against the Red Wings this season. In his career, Boedker has tallied 7 points (2 goals, 5 assists) in 11 games against the Red Wings.
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