Big story: Anyone who thought the vastly-improved but postseason-inexperienced Coyotes wouldn't be able to hang with the two-time defending Western Conference champion Red Wings now knows better. This has turned out to be everything you would expect from a series pitting No. 4 and 5 seeds, with the teams trading wins and losses back and forth. Each team has won a game on its opponent's home ice.
Red Wings: Life has gotten markedly better for Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard as this week has gone along. Howard was anything but brilliant in a 4-2 loss in Game 3 on Sunday, but he responded two nights later by making 29 saves for his first career playoff shutout. Henrik Zetterberg scored twice in the Red Wings' 3-0 victory. On Thursday, Howard was named as a finalist for the Calder Trophy, along with Buffalo defenseman Tyler Myers and Colorado forward Matt Duchene.
"He's worked hard on and off the ice to get to this point," veteran Chris Osgood, who relinquished the starting job to Howard this season, told the Detroit Free Press. "He was right on track the whole time, and I think it's one, his attitude, and two, he's got a really good mental makeup to play here. He's obviously a talented player."
Coyotes: If this series goes the distance, Phoenix could have the edge with two of the final three games slated for Jobing.com Arena. Then again, the Coyotes have played two very different games on their home ice so far. Their power play was the story in Game 1, scoring all the goals in a 3-2 win, but their normally stingy defense was nowhere to be found in Game 2, as Zetterberg registered the hat trick in handing them a 7-4 defeat.
"Our fans give us a great boost and we've used that as a motivating factor all season," coach Dave Tippett said. "We have to defend home ice and used it to our advantage. It's a very, tight, competitive series and so far we're deadlocked."
Who's hot: Zetterberg enters Friday tied with Sidney Crosby, Nicklas Backstrom and Mikael Samuelsson for the postseason lead with five goals. His seven points also paces the Wings. … Matthew Lombardi leads the Coyotes in scoring (1-4-5) and had a five-game points streak dating back to the regular season before he and his teammates were blanked by Howard on Tuesday.
Injury report: Phoenix captain Shane Doan, who suffered what is believed to be a shoulder injury Sunday and missed Game 4, skated briefly on Thursday but departed practice early and remains a game-time decision for Friday. Defenseman Zbynek Michalek missed practice for undisclosed reasons.
Stat pack: When Derek Morris scored the game-winning goal in the series opener, the Coyotes were a perfect 3-for-3 on the power play. They've gone 0-for-14 since, and the task of advancing to the second round will be that much tougher if they can't get the PP going.
"Our opportunities were a lot from the outside," Tippett told the Arizona Republic. "We could have found more lanes than that, but part of that is their penalty-kill is doing a pretty good job of getting in lanes. We have to execute a little quicker and find some pucks around the net."
Puck drop: This series has shown the ability to turn at a moment’s notice and nobody realizes that better than Zetterberg, a former Conn Smythe winner as playoff MVP.
"We can't look at what we did (in Game 4) and automatically think we've regained control of this series," Zetterberg told the Free Press. "Everyone realizes that this will continue to be an extremely tough series. It's important for us now to build upon what we did in this game, but we expect them to come out (in Game 5) and play an inspired game."