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Success against the Western Conference's worst teams has helped keep the Detroit Red Wings in the running for the best record in the NHL.
The Red Wings, hoping to keep pace among the league's point leaders, look to extend a three-game winning streak against the lowly Phoenix Coyotes when the teams conclude their season series Saturday night.
Detroit (37-16-6) has 80 points, competing with Central Division rival Nashville and Eastern Conference-leading Buffalo for the league lead. The Predators made a move Thursday in an attempt to gain an edge in the race, acquiring Peter Forsberg in a trade with Philadelphia.
A matchup with the Coyotes (25-30-3) should give the Red Wings a good chance to keep up with their competition. Detroit has outscored Phoenix 18-5 en route to three straight wins in the series.
The Red Wings are 11-3-0 against the bottom four teams in the West.
Detroit, though, did lose to the East's worst team Monday night, falling 6-1 to the Flyers, but bounced back with a 3-1 victory over Dallas two days later.
"When we embarrass ourselves, which doesn't happen very often, we respond," said Red Wings coach Mike Babcock, whose team has won seven of nine. "The other night in Philly was a humbling experience, to say the least."
Detroit got 17 saves Wednesday night from Chris Osgood, who started despite a broken right index finger. Osgood sat out the previous eight games.
Red Wings No. 1 goaltender Dominik Hasek sat out because of tendinitis in his right wrist. He hasn't played since Detroit's last meeting with Phoenix, a 4-2 win on Feb. 7.
Pavel Datsyuk, who tied Wednesday's game at 11:14 of the third with his 18th goal, has a goal in his last four games against the Coyotes. He has a seven-game point streak against them, posting five goals and eight assists in that span.
Phoenix has lost four straight, starting with the defeat in Detroit on Feb. 7. The Coyotes blew a three-goal lead in a 5-4 overtime loss to Anaheim on Thursday night.
Former Red Wings goaltender Curtis Joseph allowed all five goals and has given up 13 in his last three games, including four against Detroit. Joseph is 0-2-0 with a 6.60 goals-against average against the Red Wings this season, and 1-3-0 with a 6.00 GAA in his last four games against them.
Mathias Tjarnqvist, Keith Ballard, Owen Nolan and Oleg Saprykin scored for Phoenix on Thursday.
Tjarnqvist, acquired from the Stars on Monday along with a first-round pick for Ladislav Nagy, scored his first goal in two games with the Coyotes after finding the net just once in 18 games with Dallas.
The Coyotes' offense is so thin after the Nagy trade that Ballard, a defenseman, was used as a power forward on the power play.
Phoenix was without defenseman Ed Jovanovski, who was a late scratch with an elbow injury, and coach Wayne Gretzky said he would miss Saturday's game.
"He's got an injury that's been bothering him and hasn't been getting any better and we need to get it better," Gretzky said.
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