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NHL on NBCSN: Red Wings struggle to keep postseason streak alive, face Coyotes

Apr 22, 2013, 8:09 AM EDT

GLENDALE, AZ - APRIL 04: Goaltender Jimmy Howard #35 of the Detroit Red Wings makes a save on the shot as Martin Hanzal #11 and Shane Doan #19 of the Phoenix Coyotes attempt a deflection during the first period of the NHL game at Arena on April 4, 2013 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

NBCSN’s ongoing coverage of the 2013 campaign will continue tonight when the Detroit Red Wings host the Phoenix Coyotes at Joe Louis Arena at 7:30 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

The last time the Red Wings missed the playoffs, George H. W. Bush was the President of the United States, there were 21 teams in the NHL, and Mark Messier, Patrick Roy, Wayne Gretzky, and Brett Hull were 20-somethings dominating the league.

That’s the streak at stake as we enter the final week of the regular season. The Red Wings have just four games left starting with tonight’s contest against Phoenix.

None of the Red Wings want to be responsible for letting one of the longest postseason appearance streaks in the history of the NHL come to an end.

“If you’re Henrik Zetterberg, and it’s your first year as captain, you don’t want it on your watch,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “If you’re Mike Babcock, in your eighth year of coaching, you don’t want it on your watch.”

Despite that sentiment, Detroit has won just one of its last six games, although three of those losses were determined by shootouts. The Red Wings’ recent slump has corresponded with the Columbus Blue Jackets’ surge.

Columbus earned a 4-3 victory over San Jose on Sunday, so the eighth place Blue Jackets now have a three-point lead over Detroit, but have played in two extra games. In other words, the Red Wings’ fate is still in their own hands, but the pressure is certainly on.

As for the Coyotes, their chances of making the playoffs are slim, but still alive. They are two points behind the Red Wings, so a win tonight would certainly give the Coyotes’ improbable run more life.

One player to watch on the Coyotes’ side is 31-year-old forward Radim Vrbata. He heated up towards the end of the 2011-12 campaign with five goals in the Coyotes’ final five regular season contests. He might be setting himself up for an encore after finding the back of the net in Phoenix’s last two games.

“He’s shown in the past that when he does get hot, he can score in bunches,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett told the Arizona Republic.

We’ll see if the Red Wings can turn the weight of their past success into motivation or if the Coyotes can keep their playoff hopes alive.

Probable goaltenders: DET – Jimmy Howard (17-13-7, 2.28 GAA, .919 SV%)| PHX – Mike Smith (14-11-4, 2.57 GAA, .911 SV%)

Top scorers: DET – Pavel Datsyuk (13-28-41, 43 GP) | PHX – Mikkel Boedker (7-18-25, 44 GP)

Notable Injuries:
Detroit – Forwards: Drew Miller (hand), Mikael Samuelsson (upper body), Todd Bertuzzi (leg), Darren Helm (back)
Phoenix – Forwards: Lauri Korpikoski (upper body) Defensemen: Derek Morris (lower body)

  1. polegojim - Apr 22, 2013 at 8:44 AM

    Blue Jackets are doing what they need to do…. winning… 7-3

    After giving up 9 points over the last 9 games, the Red Wings turn to do the same with all 8 points remaining. 3 wins over 9 games won’t cut it.

  2. thehighcountrybear - Apr 22, 2013 at 9:02 AM

    As F. Scott Fitzgerald was wont to say…

    Life is essentially a cheat and its conditions are those of defeat; the redeeming things are not happiness and pleasure but the deeper satisfactions that come out of struggle.

    Wings have been deeply satisfied…

  3. targhee159 - Apr 22, 2013 at 10:13 AM

    Steve Yzerman once said that Lidstrom was the heart and soul of the Wings. Not surprising then to have them possibly miss the playoffs the year after he retires.

    • imauggiedoggie - Apr 22, 2013 at 12:17 PM

      …i second this comment, but to be fair to the wings they are an aging team with a core defense not up to the rest of the league ~ all teams go through a phase of rebuild and i’m afraid this is the time for my beloved red wings. and, there is LOTS of talent in grand rapids, so ~

      • hockeydon10 - Apr 22, 2013 at 2:15 PM

        This stupidity again? This thing about the Red Wings’ age has been shouted from the rooftops for the past 10 years.

        Two things:

        First, 8 of the 10 oldest teams made the playoffs last year while 8 of the 10 youngest teams missed the playoffs. Traditionally, it’s the older teams and middle teams (average age wise) that make the playoffs, not the youngest teams.

        Second, the average age of the Wings for this season is 27.652. Younger than 8 teams that are likely to make the playoffs this year. They’re 15th in average age. That’s not an old team.

        The only valid point your making is about their defense, which has been hanging Howard (and the team, really) out to dry too much lately.

  4. jeffchadwick - Apr 22, 2013 at 10:21 AM

    The good news for the Wings is that they have two games in hand on the Blue Jackets and one on the Wild and Stars, so winning out will likely result in a playoff bid. The bad news is that they’ve really, really stunk lately.

  5. vshehane - Apr 22, 2013 at 11:40 AM

    Lets go yotes!

    • hockeydon10 - Apr 22, 2013 at 2:16 PM

      Go where? Quebec City or Seattle?

      (Sorry, I just couldn’t resist!)

      • coyotes89 - Apr 22, 2013 at 3:35 PM

        I am from Oklahoma. And I watch the coyotes due to a lack of nhl team and a realization there probably never will be one. And I think that sending the coyotes to Quebec City would make the entire realignment useless considering its to cure the traveling teams and set time zones. And moving them there would create one that’s worse than any current one. It’s literally east to west and north to south nearly the worst possible option for that.

  6. tmarchione - Apr 22, 2013 at 3:45 PM

    I really don’t think it’s the defense (though, they seem to have one major screwup a game on average). And the numbers don’t lie:

    DRW is 9th in the league on defense (2.43 GAA), but they are 24th in offense (2.43/game). If you take out the 2 major blowouts (St Louis and Chicago) and make them 3-0 losses, they are 4th in the league in GAA. Even with playing with a patchwork defense for most of the year. Now, the PK hasn’t been great (19th overall), but has greatly improved in the last few weeks. I believe the long term (3 years) core of the defense is set, with DeKeyser, Kronner, Ericcson, Lashoff, and Smith on board.

    And Howard has kept the team in games most nights (he needs a reliable backup). His 2.28 GAA is better than Fleury, Backstrom, Quick, and Price (all goalies leading playoff teams). The difference is those teams score for their goalies. Does he let in soft goals? Yes, so does a lot of goalies. But one or two soft goals shouldn’t cost a team the game every time, especially if they are scoring at the proper pace.

    I just read this, DRW is 16-0-2 in game where they score 3 or more goals. They’ve played 44 games, and only have gotten 3 or more goals 18 times? Ottawa is the only team to score less with a chance at the playoffs. Secondary scoring has been non-existent (does Bert really mean that much to this team?). If Hank or Pavel don’t score, this team doesn’t have a chance to win. I think Brunner will eventually be a scorer (you can tell he’s never played this much before), but they need to go out and acquire some scoring in the offseason, and (if they can find out) a scoring defenseman (who longs for the days of Rafalski?). #5 knew how to pass the puck, and find a shooting lane, which isn’t this group’s strong suit.

    At least the kids (Nyquist, Tatar, Andderson, Lashoff) got some game action this year. They’ll all in the NHL next year (either in Detroit, or on another team).

  7. sabatimus - Apr 22, 2013 at 5:22 PM

    Neither Wayne Gretzky nor Mark Messier were in their 20’s in 1992.

  8. thehighcountrybear - Apr 22, 2013 at 7:22 PM

    My beef with Howard is he doesn’t win us enough games by himself…the contract says he should, so get with it son!

    Perhaps my problem lies in having seen Glen Hall, Terry Sawchuk, Larry Lozinski and the unearthly Roger Crozier play…without peer were this quartet!

  9. thehighcountrybear - Apr 22, 2013 at 7:29 PM

    Sorry mister Hall, that should have been Glenn rather than Glen? The Hall was where he was put in 1975…

    he had a tough time making the presentation as he was off ‘painting his barn’ an occupation he always occupied during contract negotiations.

    What a riot, players had so much character in those days…

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