DETROIT -- The Phoenix Coyotes are back at Joe Louis Arena for the first time since a first-round playoff series last spring that saw them lose the first two games here on the way to being swept by the Detroit Red Wings.
In fact, Detroit has knocked Phoenix coach Dave Tippett's Coyotes out of the playoffs for two straight seasons -- despite the Coyotes always seeming to play the Wings tough in hard-hitting, close games. Are the Wings a sort of measuring stick for the upstart Coyotes, who come into Thursday night's game seeking their third straight win?
It's the first of four games between the two this season and Phoenix has already knocked off the Chicago Blackhawks and Nashville Predators earlier this week on this road trip.
"I don't if it's a measurement game, but what we've done is we've tried to set new standards," Tippett said after Thursday's morning skate. "When you're playing against top teams, if you can go out and play well and beat top teams you set new standards."
Beating the Wings certainly qualifies, even though both are currently deadlocked in the Western Conference standings with 33 points each.
"We've played pretty hard here and kept ourselves in a lot of games," Tippett said. "This will be another one of those tests for us. Detroit's a very good team."
It might also help Phoenix to get some veteran help back on the blue line. Coyotes defenseman Michal Rozsival, who's been on injured reserve since Oct. 10 with an upper body injury, will make his return against Detroit and replace rookie Chris Summers on the second pairing with David Schlemko.
Detroit will also get a key cog back into its lineup when top-six forward Valtteri Filppula returns from a one-game absence caused by a deep cut to his shin that happened in a game last weekend at Colorado. Filppula, who will wear Kevlar socks to protect the wound, will go right back to his spot at left wing on the second line next to star center Henrik Zetterberg.
"I felt OK," Filppula said of testing the shin out in Thursday's morning skate. "It's obviously sore, but I felt a lot better than the last time I skated (on Tuesday)."
Here's a look at what the lineups might look like for the Red Wings (16-9-1) and Coyotes (15-9-3) on Thursday night:
Ray Whitney - Martin Hanzal - Radim Vrbata
Mikkel Boedker - Daymond Langkow - Shane Doan
Taylor Pyatt - Boyd Gordon - Lauri Korpikoski
Raffi Torres - Kyle Turris - Kyle Chipchura
Keith Yandle - Derek Morris
Michal Rozsival - David Schlemko
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Adrian Aucoin
Mike Smith will get the start in net, while Jason LaBarbera will be on the bench.
Johan Franzen - Pavel Datsyuk - Todd Bertuzzi
Valtteri Filppula - Henrik Zetterberg - Jiri Hudler
Chris Conner - Darren Helm - Danny Cleary
Drew Miller - Justin Abdelkader - Tomas Holmstrom
Nicklas Lidstrom - Ian White
Niklas Kronwall - Jonathan Ericsson
Jakub Kindl - Brad Stuart
Jimmy Howard will get the start in net, while Ty Conklin will be on the bench.