Tonight is the final game between these two teams this season. The Wings lead the season series 2-1, with road wins October 15th (2-0) and this past Saturday (the 4th, 7-3). The Coyotes' lone win came on November 5th, a 4-1 decision at the Joe.
The Wings came off the Olympics with an embarrassing 5-1 loss to the Sharks a week ago but put on strong performances in the next two games on their way to wrapping up a three-game West Coast trip. After shutting out the Ducks 2-0, they traveled to Phoenix for what turned out to be a bit of a wild one. The Wings jumped out to an early two-goal lead and looked to be in command but the score at the end of the first was 3-2 Detroit as the Coyotes, with the help of some fortunate penalty calls, stormed back to make the score more respectable. By the end of the second, however, the Wings were leading 7-3 and the result was no longer in doubt.
Although the guys looked "sluggish" in practice
yesterday, it seems pretty safe to say that the team is recovered from any Olympic hangover and is ready for the final stretch of the season as they seek to lock up the top spot in the West and perhaps take a shot at the President's Trophy.
The Wings kick off a three-game homestand tonight, a stretch in which they will play host to the Kings and the Hawks as well as Wayne Gretzky's team.
Manny Legace should be in net tonight and will be looking to settle in a rhythm as the race to the end heats up.
Mikael Samuelsson did not practice yesterday and is awaiting the results of a second batch of X-rays, according to the Detroit News
. His status for tonight depends on what the X-rays say and whether he feels he can shoot the puck as hard as he has been.
The Coyotes will be looking for revenge after Saturday's game and know they need to win if they want to have any chance at all of catching the eighth seed, Edmonton by the end of the season. They don't have a very easy schedule remaining, however, and it's going to be tough enough without having to face the top team in the West another time. A win tonight might be just what they need to get the ball rolling, however, so I hope the Wings are ready for a push by Phoenix.
Curtis Joseph embarrassed himself on Saturday, giving up seven goals and taking two nasty slashing penalties but I expect he'll be in net again tonight. He's still their best bet in net and if they're looking to put him on the trading block, they'll probably want to showcase him before they do.