DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 08: Jimmy Howard #35 of the Detroit Red Wings makes a third period save on Taylor Pyatt #14 of the Phoenix Coyotes at Joe Louis Arena on December 8, 2011 in Detroit, Michigan. Detroit won the game 5-2. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Actually, let me clarify that statement. As a Phoenix Coyotes fan, I have begrudging respect for the Detroit Red Wings franchise - particularly their front office that scouts so incredibly well and finds great talent deep in the draft and especially in Europe (except for that whole signing Todd Bertuzzi thing - what the heck was that about?). I respect their coaching staff that allows their talented players to showcase their skills while playing rookies in key roles and generally excels on all areas of the ice. Further, they are an original six franchise that has had long runs of success and saw some of the greatest hockey players of all time put on the winged wheel - and the winged wheel logo and jerseys are classics make no mistake...
No, what I hate about the Red Wings are the "fans" that make everything that I just highlighted completely unbearable. The self-entitled, so far up their own team's recent success that they can't recall a time when the Red Wings were not a good team...at all. Most of these folks aren't populating Winging it in Motown. Rather they are populating the comment threads at Puck Daddy and every other general hockey website; they are filling in the seats at Jobing.com Arena in their Niklas Kronwall jerseys with the tags still on and trying to throw an octopus (or more likely a squid because who can even tell the difference) onto the ice of the Coyotes barn. They've never stepped foot in Detroit, know nothing about even Steve Yzerman, but are "passionate" about their team...yeah, that's why I frickin' hate the Red Wings.
So tonight the Coyotes head into Joe Louis Arena for the second (and final) time this season, after a disappointing showing there back in early December, a 5-2 loss. For the Coyotes, that game marked the beginning of this rough patch that they've been in as they have played to a 5-8-3 record since that game. This play has left the Desert Dogs on the outside of the Western Conference playoff race right now with 46 points, just three behind Los Angeles for the 8th position.
Detroit, meanwhile, has had an up-and-down type of season with both extended winning and losing streaks. They currently sit at 26-15-1, good for 53 points and 5th in the Western Conference. In their most recent game on Long Island Tuesday night, they were steamrolled by the Islanders 5-1, although they were without leading scorer Pavel Datsyuk who sat with an undisclosed lower body injury. Jimmy Howard also sat, but he is expected to be returning to the cage for tonight's game against the Coyotes.
Five For Winning
1. Score First: It may sound like a broken record around here, but the Coyotes are really good when they score first, and not so much when they don't. Let's set the pedal to the metal early tonight.
2. Take out the Trash: Detroit has tons of skilled players that make life miserable, but they've really excelled at beating the Coyotes by parking bodies in front of the goalie and making life difficult to see shots. For the Coyotes to succeed, the defense needs to be getting Bertuzzi and Tomas Holmstrom out of Smith's sightlines.
3. Shoot the Puck: For the season, no Coyotes player is scoring at more than a 16.7% clip and most of the team is significantly below this. So the Coyotes need to be getting a lot of rubber on net to put goals on the board. They struggled to do this in New York and need to be better.
4. Continued Strong Play from Derek Morris: DMo had quite the resurgence in the game at MSG Tuesday night. With David Schlemko being sidelined for an extended period of time, the Coyotes need Morris to keep playing like he did against the Rangers.
5. Who Steps Up? Secondary scoring is essential from the Coyotes, whether it is from the blue line or from a third or fourth liner. Will anyone other than Ray Whitney, Radim Vrbata or Shane Doan find the back of the net tonight?
|2011 - Boyd Gordon||22||3||7||10||8||4||0||0||1||32|
Gordon returned to the lineup on Tuesday and looked terrific. I wouldn't be surprised to see Tippett lining him up with Vrbata and Whitney to take on Detroit's top offensive unit.
|2011 - Johan Franzen||22||10||12||22||10||18||5||0||4||58|
The guy they call Mule always seems to do damage to the Coyotes. He's the one you forget about until he burns you on the ice. Having a pretty terrific season so far with 16 goals, 20 assists and a +23. Just another guy the Coyotes need to keep in check tonight.
Tonight's Likely Goaltenders
|2011 - Mike Smith||18||1095||11||4||40||2.19||601||561||.933||2|
|2011 - Jimmy Howard||19||1126||13||5||35||1.87||501||466||.930||3|
Phoenix Coyotes Injuries
Detroit Red Wings Injuries
[Ed. Note - According to Detroit Free Press, Mike Commodore is also questionable for tonight's tilt.]