COYOTES (20-17-6) at RED WINGS (26-15-1)
TV: FS-Arizona, FS-Detroit
LAST 10 : Phoenix 3-4-3; Detroit 5-5-0
Season Series: Detroit won 5-2 in the first meeting this season at Joe Louis Arena in early December. The Red Wings have won five straight against the Coyotes, including a four-game sweep in the first round of the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Big Story: After splitting a four-game road trip, the Red Wings will try to close a two-point gap with St. Louis and Chicago at the top of the Central Division, while the Coyotes will be trying to get back within a point of the top eight in the Western Conference.
Coyotes: The offense has gone missing in this current slump for Phoenix. The Coyotes have lost 11 of 16 games to slip to 11th place in the West. In seven of those 11 losses -- including Tuesday's 2-1 shootout defeat in New York -- they've scored one goal or less.
Losing Ilya Bryzgalov has not been a problem this season -- goaltender Mike Smith has provided great value at a bargain price. Phoenix is currently scoring 0.27 goals per game less than last season -- that is a big problem.
"I thought Mike Smith was fantastic and gave us a chance to win," coach Dave Tippett said after Smith's 31-save performance against the Rangers. "It's just too bad we couldn't get two points,"
Red Wings: After an uncharacteristic slow start, Detroit is just fine at the season's midway point -- despite Tuesday's 5-1 clunker on Long Island. The Red Wings are among the top six in the NHL in goals for, goals against and power-play proficiency. Sure, the penalty-killing could be better (23rd in the League at 80.8 percent), but Detroit is on pace for another 100-plus point season and remain one of the top contenders in the West.
One thing that is different about this edition? General manager Ken Holland has cap space to work with -- lots of cap space. According to Capgeek.com, the Wings have more than $12 million in acquisition space right now and would have nearly $27 million at the trade deadline (that figure will be less if there are injuries, but it will still be huge). Expect Holland to enjoy shopping for another player or two to solidify Detroit's status as a Cup contender.
The Wings are glad to be back at Joe Louis Arena -- they've won their last 12 home games, two short of the franchise record set in 1965, and are 15-2-1 overall at the Joe.
Who's Hot: Smith might be making a late push for a spot in the All-Star game. He's allowed one goal in four of his past five starts and has stopped 135 of 142 shots (.951 save percentage) in that span. … Justin Abdelkader has three goals in the past six games for Detroit, including the lone tally against the Islanders. Henrik Zetterberg has nine points in eight games since the Christmas break, including six in the past four.
Injury Report: Phoenix has been without center Martin Hanzal for eight games because of an upper-body injury, but he is skating on his own. The Coyotes did get center Boyd Gordon (lower body) back against the Rangers. … Red Wings center Pavel Datsyuk missed the loss to the Islanders with a lower-body injury and is listed as day-to-day. Patrick Eaves is out until later this month with a broken jaw.
Stat Pack: Want a good indication that Phoenix coach Dave Tippett trusts Gordon as his defensive ace? Gordon has started his shifts in the defensive zone 63.9 percent of the time, which is tops on the Coyotes and 15th among forwards who have played at least 30 games in the League this season. … Abdelkader and Detroit's Darren Helm aren't just the young guys up front for the Red Wings who provide energy -- they are also helping the Wings get their sixth-ranked power play on the ice more. Helm is drawing 2.2 penalties per 60 minutes of ice time, which is fifth in the NHL among players with at least 30 games played, while Abdelkader's 2.1 per 60 is tied for sixth. Detroit is only team with two guys in the top 15.
Puck Drop: Last season it took 81 games for a member of the Phoenix Coyotes to score his 20th goal, and Shane Doan ended up leading the team with 20. Radim Vrbata had 19 last season, but he reached the 20-goal plateau Tuesday night and needed only 43 games to get there. His career high is 27 in 2007-08.
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