Feb 6, 2012, 8:16 AM EDT
Whenever the Red Wings head to Phoenix to take on the Coyotes it works like a home game away from home. When the two teams face off tonight (8:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN) it should be more of the same for Detroit, but this time they’ll be facing a desperate Coyotes team looking to get back into the playoff mix.
Phoenix has won just six games out of their last 20 (6-9-5) and have slipped into a tie for 11th in the Western Conference with Calgary. On the upside for the Coyotes, they’re just four points back of Minnesota for eighth. When you’re struggling the way the Coyotes are, it’s all about accentuating the positives.
As for the player positives, Ray Whitney and Radim Vrbata have been about as good as it gets for Phoenix. Whitney leads the team with 45 points and Vrbata leads the way in goals with 24. The Coyotes are a team that struggles to score, however, as they’ve only got four players in double-digits in goals. At the very least, the Coyotes won’t be dealing Shane Doan away at the deadline.
One guy who has been strong this season is Mike Smith in goal. His season numbers are solid but with the Coyotes in a funk, he’s had a hard time of late. With Detroit in town he’ll have to be on top of his game.
The Red Wings come in without Jimmy Howard as he’s out with a busted pinkie finger. That leaves Detroit’s goaltending up to the backup tandem of Ty Conklin and Joey MacDonald. Conklin hasn’t inspired any confidence this season and MacDonald may wind up stealing the starting job away while Howard is out.
All that aside, Detroit has been playing great of late losing just twice in their last 11 games. Detroit will hope that Jobing.com Arena treats them like home one more time this season. Detroit is 3-0-0 against the Coyotes this season and won in a shootout in Phoenix back on January 19.
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