After a two-game sweep of one of the Western Conference's best teams, the Detroit Red Wings are on the verge of matching their longest win streak of the season.
The Red Wings will seek a third consecutive victory in Monday night's visit to the struggling and potentially short-handed Phoenix Coyotes.
Detroit (16-11-5) opened its four-game Western road trip with a pair of matchups against Pacific Division-leading Anaheim and edged the Ducks 2-1 in Sunday's finale of that set. Jimmy Howard made 33 saves to help the Red Wings hold on after early goals from Daniel Cleary and Drew Miller.
Justin Abdelkader didn't record a point following his first career hat trick in a 5-1 rout of Anaheim on Friday.
"It's a huge four points for us. We have to continue to make the push for the postseason. We have teams coming up on our heels, so we have to continue to get points," Howard said.
The Red Wings will try to collect some more points against the Coyotes (13-14-4), losers in a season-high five in a row. Phoenix has been outscored 12-3 during its 0-4-1 skid and began that miserable stretch by getting shut out in three consecutive games for the first time in franchise history.
The Coyotes' Antoine Vermette scored a tying goal early in the third period Thursday against Vancouver but his team gave up another with 10:07 remaining in a 2-1 defeat.
"It's no secret what we have to do to do better," Vermette said. "We talked about how this team's been successful the last couple years. Every guy needs to be better and, collectively, things will take care of themselves."
Even worse for the Coyotes, goaltender Mike Smith left Thursday's game with an upper-body injury and his status is unknown for this visit from Detroit. Phoenix could use his help as it will play four times in six days with three of those games on the road.
"He'll try (Monday morning) and we'll see where he's at," coach Dave Tippett said Sunday. "I talked to him this morning and it didn't seem (the injury would be long term). We'll see."
If Smith is healthy enough to return, he would face a team that's won 26 of the last 35 matchups, including the playoffs. Detroit, though, lost 3-1 in Phoenix in the most recent of those meetings Feb. 6, 2012, and ended a string of seven straight wins over the Coyotes, counting both the regular season and a 2011 playoff sweep.
Detroit will bring a four-game road win streak into this matchup and try to send Phoenix to its longest losing streak since Jan. 27-Feb. 7, 2009. The Red Wings' only three-game win streak this season was from Feb. 7-10 and they haven't recorded five consecutive victories away from home since a six-game run Feb. 11-28, 2011.
Backup goaltender Jonas Gustavsson will likely be in net for Detroit. Gustavsson's first start since March 13 would also mark his first matchup with the Coyotes.
He might want to keep a close eye out for Martin Hanzal, who has six goals in his last six regular-season games against Detroit and scored twice in the most recent matchup.
Red Wings star forward Pavel Datsyuk's 55 career points against Phoenix are his most versus any opponent outside the Central Division and fourth-most against any team. Datsyuk hasn't scored in his last seven regular-season matchups with the Coyotes but has recorded eight assists.
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