Tonight, the Wings complete their Western road trip with a game against Phoenix. The teams have split their previous two meetings, with the Wings' 2-0 shutout
on October 15th and the Coyotes 4-1 response
on November 5th. The teams will complete the season series of four games on Tuesday in Detroit.
The Wings are still feeling the effects of the Olympic break, the Freep reports
, and it's been evident in their play. They lost their first game back, by an embarrassing score of 5-1, in San Jose on Tuesday but rebounded on Wednesday with a solid win over the Ducks, 2-0. The story of the Sharks game was the absence of the team's Swedish stars and the subsequent weakening of the overall defense that resulted in five power play goals allowed. The Swedes were back against Anaheim, however, and were involved in both goals as well as in killing off four penalties.
Manny Legace started against the Sharks but was benched in favor of Chris Osgood for the Anaheim game. Despite the fact that Osgood had a good game, Legace will be back in net again tonight as Mike Babcock gives him the opportunity to rebound.
The Coyotes' return to NHL play was a bit better than the Wings': they beat their division leaders, the Stars, 6-2 on Thursday (why, oh NHL, weren't they playing on Tuesday or Wednesday? when my Wings had to play both
days!). It seems the Olympics helped Wayne Gretzky's team forget the four game losing streak that accompanied that scandal (remember that?).
They are expecting a sell-out crowd tonight but not by their own fans. The Arizona Republic reports
that it's "not surprising considering the opponent is the Detroit Red Wings." Glendale is Hockeytown West, in case you didn't know, and the Wings will have a rather large contingent of their own fans to help egg them on tonight. The 'Yotes have won just four games out of 19 home games against the Wings since the franchise moved to Arizona. Not a very good average.
I expect Curtis Joseph will start tonight, which could create somewhat interesting dynamics, with Manny at the other end.
This game should be another "getting back in the swing of things" game, as everyone's body clocks continue to adjust and players get used to the NHL ice surface again. With a full roster, the Wings ought to be able to pull off a win, I think, but the Coyotes may be about to surge given their commanding win over Dallas the other night.