GLENDALE, Ariz. -– For two teams that have played 25 times during the past four seasons, to be done with each other just three weeks into the season is a bit strange.
Western Conference foes and playoff opponents twice in the last four years, the Phoenix Coyotes host the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday for the one and only time in Arizona. It's the second game in nine days between the two teams, but with Detroit now in the Eastern Conference, that's it unless the two teams meet in the Stanley Cup Final.
The Coyotes beat the Red Wings 4-2 on Oct. 10, snapping a two-game road losing streak. That win also began their current streak of five straight games with at least one point (3-0-2).
The Red Wings have won four straight since that game, including a 4-2 win Thursday against the previously undefeated Colorado Avalanche. The win was costly, however, as defenseman Niklas Kronwall sustained a concussion after a big hit from Cody McLeod of the Avalanche.
Kronwall, who will see his consecutive-games streak snapped at 138 Saturday, said he felt much better Saturday and rode a stationary bicycle for 30 minutes without problems.
All the other injury news for Detroit is positive. Goalie Jimmy Howard will return after missing the past three games with a bruised left (catching) hand.
Detroit coach Mike Babcock said he will elevate Danny DeKeyser to the top defense pairing with Jonathan Ericsson, and that Brendan Smith will take Kronwall's place in the lineup after being a healthy scratch the past four games.
"[Kronwall is] a good player, so you play without him and everyone else gets an opportunity to get more opportunity," Babcock said. "So here's an opportunity for you to grab a bigger piece of the game. I like it. [Smith] gets back in, let's see what he can do and let's see what the other guys do with the opportunity.''
The Coyotes got a point in a 3-2 shooutout loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Friday but allowed a bizarre game-tying goal to Nick Bonino in the final three minutes before losing in extra time for the second straight game after a three-game winning streak. Goaltender Mike Smith struggled in the shootout, allowing four goals on six attempts, including the game-winner to Jakob Silfverberg. He called out his team for its ragged third-period play.
"We were scared to win," Smith said. "That is not how you finish off hockey games. When you give that team the chances that we gave them, sooner or later it's going to get in the back of the net."
Phoenix did not skate Saturday but came out of the Anaheim game healthy.
Here are the projected lineups for the Red Wings and Coyotes: