04.27.2010 / 8:49 PM ET
Looks like the Phoenix Coyotes will be playing without their captain. Again.
Shane Doan, who suffered an upper-body injury in Game 3 of this series, was not on the ice with his teammates for pre-game warmups. Phoenix coach Dave Tippett called Doan a game-time decision and said he made progress over the last two days.
Doan has been with the franchise since 1995, when he was drafted by the Winnipeg Jets.
-- Brian Compton
It's almost time
04.27.2010 / 3:55 PM ET
The energy is fantastic here in Glendale as we're just hours away from Game 7 of this Western Conference Quarterfinal.
Many of the Detroit Red Wings have been in this situation before, so there really wasn't any tension in their dressing room this morning. Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom said he'll treat it like he would any other game.
"You look at the season we had, we had to battle back from being out of the playoffs," Lidstrom said. "We had a lot of guys injured. We know the importance of the game, we know we have to get ready for a big game. Your routine is going to be the same as any other game in the playoffs, but we know the importance of the game."
The Red Wings played in a pair of Game 7s last season, going 1-1. They defeated the Anaheim Ducks to advance to the Western Conference Final, but lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in a game that decided the 2008-09 Stanley Cup champion.
"We have to go out and play a solid game," forward Henrik Zetterberg said. "We've all been through it. We won one last year and we lost one. We know how it is to be on both sides. It's definitely more fun to be on the winning team."
Other notes from this morning:
-- Wings goalie Jimmy Howard is experiencing his first Game 7 in the NHL, but that doesn't mean he doesn't have Game 7 memories. His biggest came in 1994, when the New York Rangers beat the New Jersey Devils in double overtime to advance to the Stanley Cup Final.
"I was a huge Rangers fan when I was growing up," said Howard, who was 10 at the time. "Stephane Matteau, through the five-hole on Marty (Brodeur). That was probably my best Game 7 experience."
Sixteen years later, Howard is playing in a Game 7 of his own. His approaching it as if it's his time to shine.
"It's kind of surreal," Howard said. "Growing up, you dream of it but you're never sure if it's going to come true or not. Here's my chance tonight."
-- Brian Rafalski did not skate this morning, but the Wings defenseman will be in the lineup tonight.
-- Coyotes coach Dave Tippett is no stranger to Game 7s. When he guided the Houston Aeros to a championship in 1999, his team was forced to go the distance in every round.
"It's fun," Tippett said. "I've been fortunate enough to have been around a lot of them. The year we won when I coached in Houston, we went to a Game 7 every series. That's something you never forget. Those games, they're exciting and they're ones you remember for a long time."
Those who think Tippett has some big pep talk prepared, forget about it.
"These players know exactly what's expected of them," Tippett said. "They're excited to play. I know both teams will compete very hard. It will be a very entertaining game. We'll see who wins."
-- Quote of the morning goes to Coyotes defenseman Adrian Aucoin, when asked what will determine tonight's outcome: "The team that scores more goals," he said.
-- Brian Compton
Doan still out
04.25.2010 / 2:01 PM ET
With his team's season on the line, Phoenix Coyotes captain Shane Doan will miss his third straight game on Sunday afternoon at Joe Louis Arena, as he still hasn't been cleared to play.
Doan, who has played with this franchise since being drafted in 1995, suffered the injury during the second period of Game 3 in Detroit. He was forced to miss Game 4 in Motown and Game 5 in Phoenix, both losses.
The puck is about to drop here.
-- Brian Compton
No Doan for Game 5
04.23.10/ 06:05 p.m. ET
Coyotes captain Shane Doan wanted desperately to play in Game 5. He couldn't
Doan didn't take part in the pregame warmup for Friday's game against Detroit due to the upper-body injury that knocked him out of Game 3 and kept him from playing in Game 4.
Phoenix center Robert Lang, who missed six weeks with a lower-body injury before returning Tuesday, was also scratched. The Coyotes went with seven defenseman, dressing Mathieu Schneider in hopes of generating something from a power play that's gone ice cold after scoring on its first three chances in Game 1.
Stempniak tries to recover scoring touch
04.23.10/ 06:05 p.m. ET
When he arrived in Phoenix at the trade deadline, Phoenix forward Lee Stempniak found a Coyotes team scrounging for goals. He quickly became the answer to their troubles.
Stempniak not only scored 14 goals in 18 regular-season games with Phoenix, but every goal seemed to come at a critical juncture in a game. He finished the season with 28 goals, the most of any Phoenix player this season, and the Coyotes have come to rely on his production.
So far, Stempniak has just one assist in four playoff games. While he's getting his shots, they aren't coming in the scoring areas where he seemed to live down the stretch.
"There isn't a magic formula," Stempniak said with a shrug on Friday. "You've got to get chances and make the most of them. It's funny, it's streaky. I scored all those goals (in Phoenix) and I wasn't doing anything differently than what I felt like I was doing in Toronto (where he had 14 goals in 62 games). I just had more success."
Stempniak admitted he was frustrated, but said the only solution was to keep working hard.
"You've got to stick with things and make sure you're doing the little things right," he said. "You have to make sure you're getting your shots, not rushing anything, taking quality chances, going to the right areas and hope things will turn out."
Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said it would be unrealistic to think Stempniak could keep up his torrid scoring pace, but added that he's not disappointed with his effort.
"He's still getting some attempts, finding some pucks around the net," Tippett said. "It's just a matter of whether he can bury them. He went on that hot run where everything he shot was going in the net. He was shooting about 35 percent. Unfortunately those pucks haven't found the net for him. No better time to start than (now)."
Almost time to drop the puck
04.20.2010 / 5:15 PM ET
We're less than two hours away from the start of Game 4 of this quarterfinal. Just a few thoughts before the puck drops:
Desperation was something the Detroit Red Wings failed to play with on Sunday afternoon, a fact that needs to change starting right now.
Trailing 2-1 in their best-of-seven series against the Phoenix Coyotes, the Red Wings are planning on being ready as soon as the puck drops on Tuesday night at Joe Louis Arena in a game they need to win to realistically have any chance of avoiding a first-round exit.
"We're confident," Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg said this morning. "If we play good hockey, we'll have a good chance of winning. At playoff time you have to play good, otherwise you go home."
-- Detroit coach Mike Babcock ran an optional skate, as the game is starting an hour earlier than normal. Brian Rafalski was once again not on the ice, but Babcock reassured the media that the talented defenseman will be in the lineup for Game 4.
With a healthy lineup, it's time for the Wings to step up.
"We're looking forward to tonight," Zetterberg said. "We're not happy with how we played Game 3 and we're looking forward to playing better tonight."
-- Pavel Datsyuk has once again been named a finalist for the Selke Trophy, which is given to the League's top defensive forward.
Datsyuk, arguably the best two-way player in the game, has won the award the past two years.
"I think he's an exceptional two-way player," Babcock said of Datsyuk. "Pavel's an elite player, period. He's one of the best players in the world."
Zetterberg, a phenomenal two-way player himself, agreed.
"He's a great defensive player," Zetterberg said. "It'd be fun to see him win it again."
-- Brian Compton
Doan skates, could play tomorrow
4.19.2010 / 4:15 pm ET
Phoenix Coyotes captain Shane Doan, who suffered an upper-body injury during the second period of Sunday's 4-2 win against Detroit, skated on Monday before the rest of his teammates took the ice and has a chance of being in the lineup for Game 4 on Tuesday night at Joe Louis Arena.
"He skated before our group went out," Tippett said of Doan, who did not speak with reporters. "Better today, (so) we'll list him as day-to-day. He'll skate tomorrow morning and we'll see where he's at.
"I think we'll get a good indication tomorrow morning. "He was in good spirits today, so that was positive."
While Doan could be a game-time decision, it appears as if Vernon Fiddler will return to the lineup for Game 4. Fiddler, who had 30 points in 76 regular-season games, suffered an upper-body injury during Game 2 last Friday in Phoenix. He did not play on Sunday.
"Fidds went through a good practice today," Tippett said. "We'll see how he is tomorrow, but it looks like he's ready to go. His importance goes without saying. He's a very good penalty killer, one of those guys who typifies how our team plays. He's just all in all the time. He's a hard player to play against. He's a very key player for us. If we could get him back tomorrow, that would certainly help."
"You play 82 games and help the team get in this position, to not be able to take part in it and watch, it was hard," Fiddler said. "The guys did a great job. Some took on extra minutes and did a great job."
Other notes from Coyotes' practice:
-- Tippett applauded Ilya Bryzgalov, who was nominated as a finalist for the Vezina Trophy as the League's top goaltender. Bryzgalov, who was claimed off waivers from Anaheim in November of 2007, went 42-20-6 with a 2.29 goals-against average.
"I wouldn't say we're the highest scoring team in the League, so we have to defend very well," Tippett said. "But part of that defending is the goaltender has to be very good. I think what's happened is there's a very big respect between Bryz and the players in front of him. They know that Bryz is giving us a great game and Bryz knows that the effort in front of him to make his job easier is going to be there. There's a mutual respect there that's been great for both sides."
-- The chemistry that Tippett gushes about is evident in the trio of Petr Prucha, Martin Hanzal and Radim Vrbata. All three are from the CzechRepublic, and Tippett believes that communication and familiarity goes a long way.
"When I came last fall, I had the mindset of playing the three Czechs together," Tippett said. "Vrbata and Hanzal and played together some before. That was the thinking at the start, to put them together. They've played very well all year. They have little things in their game that they seem to feed off each other. I don't know what they're saying, but they're always yapping at each other. I don't know what they're saying, but whatever they're saying, keep talking."
-- Brian Compton
Notes from Detroit
4.19.2010 / 2:35 PM ET
The Detroit Red Wings aren't panicking, nor should they.
Almost everyone in their dressing room has been in this situation before, so it was no surprise to hear them say all the right things on Monday afternoon at Joe Louis Arena, less than 24 hours after they dropped a 4-2 decision to the Phoenix Coyotes in Game 3 of this Western Conference quarterfinal.
Game 4 is set for tomorrow night at 6:30 p.m. ET.
"The results have been fair … that's a clear statement to us," said Wings coach Mike Babcock, who was his usual, entertaining self. "We've got to be better. We're not making any excuses. We understand totally."
Even Jimmy Howard, who is going through this for the first time in the NHL, seems to have already shaken off Sunday's loss. Howard, a strong candidate for the Calder Trophy as the League's top rookie, knows he'll need to be on top of his game if Detroit plans on evening this series tomorrow.
"Being a goalie, you just have to have a short-term memory," Howard said. "You have to go back out there and do your job."
Babcock is confident Howard will do just that.
"There's nothing you can do about the ones that went in," Babcock said. "That's the whole key. If he spends any time worrying about the rest of the stuff, that's an issue for him. All the great goalies of all-time, when you watch the highlights, you see them let in awful goals. But it's not about that. It's about the next one. It's playoff time. You've got to respond and we're confident he's going to. It's not a concern for us at all."
Goaltending certainly wasn't the biggest issue for the Wings in Game 3. It was their ability to penetrate through the neutral zone, as the Coyotes did a tremendous job of forcing turnovers all day long. That will need to change come Tuesday.
"A big part of playing defense is not turning over the puck," Babcock said. "If you're not turning over pucks, you have good defensive structure. I just think we've got to be better all over structurally. But the biggest issue in my mind for our team is you've got to look at the guy right across from you and you've got to say, 'I'm going to outwork you.' It doesn't matter how much skill you have. You've got to compete harder than the other guy."
"They stay with five guys there, waiting for us," added Pavel Datsyuk.
Other notes from JLA:
-- Brian Rafalski did not skate due to a "maintenance day," according to Babcock. Rafalski, who had his back worked on at one point during Game 3, will be in the lineup tomorrow night. As long as Rafalski is able to play, Babcock said he doesn't plan on making any changes to the lineup.
"The good thing about being the coach is you have a right to change your mind," Babcock said.
-- It's déjà vu all over again for rugged forward Justin Abdelkader. The MichiganState product spent the second half of the season with AHL Grand Rapids but suddenly finds himself back with the Red Wings for the playoffs, hoping to help them advance to the second round.
Abdelkader appeared in 50 regular-season games for Detroit but was returned to the Triple-A level was the Red Wings started to get healthy. He had 24 points in 33 games for Grand Rapids.
"It was one of those things, but I think it was good in a way for me to go back and get a lot of ice time," Abdelkader said. "I worked on my skills down there. When you look back at it, I think it was a good opportunity for me to go down and play a lot."
Abdelkader is once again making the most of the opportunity the Wings have given him. He already has a goal in this series against the Coyotes, and is using his 6-foot-2, 205-pound frame all over the ice.
"It's nice to score goals, but that's not really my role on the team," he said. "I have to finish checks and play good defensively. If I can chip in goals, that's a bonus. I've just got to keep playing hard and go from there.
"Ever since I've played hockey, I've always been physical. I thrive on hitting and finishing checks. The best part is that it's nothing new to me. Hopefully I can help out as much as I can in that way."
-- Quote of the day goes to (surprise, surprise) Babcock, who was asked if he's feeling pressure to help the Red Wings engage in this series that has them trailing after three games.
"I feel pressure … I feel pressure because I want to win," Babcock said. "That's what we do here."
-- Brian Compton
4.17.2010 / 12:31 PM ET
The Red Wings and Coyotes are in the midst of a wild game in Glendale.
With Phoenix clinging to a 1-0 lead in the second period, the two teams exploded for five ping-pong goals in a span of 3:58 with wide-open hockey on both ends. It's the third-fastest five-goal explosion in NHL playoff history.
Henrik Zetterberg started things with a power-play goal at 6:27 -- Detroit's first shot of the period, but Wojtek Wolski answered just 38 seconds later by pouncing on a misplay by Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard at 7:05.
Oh no you don't, said Pavel Datsyuk, who need just 1:15 to poke home a pretty feed from Johan Franzen and tie the game. But Phoenix needed just 49 seconds to replay, with Shane Doan sending Matthew Lombardi in for a backhander between Howard's pads.
Just 1:16 later, Valtteri Filppula chased down a Todd Bertuzzi pass and beat Phoenix goalie Ilya Bryzgalov to pull the Wings even once more at 3-3.
--Jerry Brown Stempniak out -- and in
4.16.2010 / 11:31 PM ET
Phoenix forward Lee Stempniak missed the last few shifts of the first period after taking a hit along the boards and left with what appeared to be an upper-body injury. However, he was able to return for the second period.
More lineup tweaks for Wings
4.16.2010 / 9:36 PM ET
Another change for the Wings: Looking for more zip out of their bottom two lines, coach Mike Babcock made a second juggle to the trios for Game 2, flip-flopping right wingers Drew Miller and Patrick Eaves
Eaves will skate with Dan Cleary and Darren Helm, while Eaves joins veteran Kris Draper and center Jason Abdelkader, seeing his first action in the series to bring a more physical look.
No changes for the Coyotes, so with Jimmy Howard in goal for Detroit and Ilya Bryzgalov for Phoenix, here is how the lines look tonight:
Lepisto-Aucoin --Jerry Brown
Wings look to get physical
4.16.2010 / 7:36 PM ET
Making no bones about the lack of physical play from his third and fourth lines in the final two periods of Detroit's Game 1 loss to Phoenix, Red Wings coach Mike Babcock decided to send his message in several forms.
The obvious move was to replacing fourth-line forward Jason Williams with young wrecking ball Justin Abdelkader in the lineup for Friday's Game 2. But since Detroit's fourth line often makes only cameo appearances, the move was more motivational than tactical -- although you can expect Abdelkader to throw his weight around when he gets the chance, since he finished third on the team in hits despite playing only 50 games.
More important to Babcock, the rest of the Wings need more of a sense of urgency when it comes to pressuring the Phoenix defense, which accounted for two goals and five points in the Coyotes 3-2 win in Game 1.
"Our bottom-six forwards in the last game had no physical play, had no grind time," he said. "We weren't hard enough on their defense. We've got to be harder to play against. We'd like to bang some bodies."
The Coyotes did plenty of that in Game 1 -- they were credited with 40 hits, 16 of them by veterans Shane Doan (nine) and Ed Jovanovski (seven). The Coyotes open themselves up to be beaten down the ice if they get caught out of position, but Doan think the Coyotes found a comfort zone in the final two periods that they will try to revive.
"When they are playing well they can get through you with a lot of speed, and when we are playing well, we make it tough on teams to get down the ice," Doan said. "When we get the puck where it needs to be and pressure with the forecheck, we're a tough team to deal with. I think we can play a lot better than we did in Game 1, and that has everyone excited. There is definitely another level."
The Coyotes will stick with the same lineup in Game 1. But defenseman Sami Lepisto struggled on both ends of the ice and will be under the microscope. As the series wears on, Phoenix may turn to veteran James Vandermeer for a steadier presence and a bigger, more physical player to combat Detroit's crease crashers, especially Tomas Holmstrom.
Notes: The Coyotes scored three power-play goals for only the third time this season in Game 1. But it was the first time the Red Wing penalty killers had allowed three in a game since they opened the season in Sweden and allowed three to St. Louis on Oct. 3. … How big a game is this for the Coyotes? The Winnipeg/Phoenix franchise has only won two playoff series in its history - 1985 and 1987. The franchise has only led 2-0 in a playoff series twice, in - you guessed it, 1985 and 1987. … Phoenix has to keep the game to a manageable level scoring-wise. The Red Wings have won 49 straight playoff games in which they have scored at least four goals.
Lidstrom keeps rolling along
4.16.2010 / 6:46 PM ET
There are more pressing matters Friday night, like squaring the series with Phoenix and going back to Detroit with home-ice advantage. But for Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom, the historical significance of the game wasn't lost.
When the puck is dropped tonight, Lidstrom will be playing in his 236th NHL postseason game -- the equivalent of almost three entire regular seasons' worth of playoff action. He will move past Mark Messier Lidstrom into sole possession of second place among skaters on the all-time NHL postseason list.
Only Lidstrom's former teammate Chris Chelios - still at it at age 48, but not in the playoffs this year - has more among skaters with 266, through a deep postseason run by the Wings this spring could cut that lead in half.
Lidstrom, who will turn 40 in two weeks, has been a playoff participant in all 18 of his NHL seasons -- all wearing the Winged Wheel. Of the 564 playoff games Detroit has played, Lidstrom has suited up for more than 40 percent.
"It's something I'm very proud about," said Lidstrom, who has collected four Stanley Cups during a brilliant career that is destined to end with enshrinement in the Hockey Hall of Fame. "I never thought about doing something like that when I came into the League.
Not bad for a guy taken No. 53 in the 1989 draft out of Sweden. Along the way Lidstrom has collected six Norris Trophies and a Conn Smythe award to go with his jewelry collection.
"It's the kind of record you can't attain on your own," he said. "I've been fortunate to be on quite a few successful teams that have gone deep into the playoffs and the last 15 years have been particularly successful. I'm very proud of the record."
Goalie Patrick Roy played in 247 career postseason games between the pipes -- and Lidstrom could catch and pass him with a third straight run to the Stanley Cup Final.
Holmstrom a headache for opponents
4.14.2010 / 7:40 PM ET
Detroit's Tomas Holmstrom claims he doesn't get inside the crease when he sets up camp smack-dab in front of enemy goaltenders.
But there is no denying he gets inside the heads of his opponents.
After the Coyotes completed their normal drills Monday in preparation for Wednesday's playoff opener against Detroit, a new one was added in his "honor." With one Coyote standing in front of goalie Ilya Bryzgalov to simulate Holmstrom's M.O., another pounded slap shots from the outside while Bryzgalov fought through for a clear view.
Even at the age of 37, Holmstrom is still the best at what he does – turn himself into a human speed bump with a hockey stick – in the NHL. He wears extra padding and protection to withstand that slashes from goalies and punishment from enemy defensemen so well, that teams have gone to Plan B – simply conceding the priceless real estate to him and concentrating on keeping the puck away from his deflection wheelhouse.
"I think there's (defensemen) out there who think they might actually get to him," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said during last year's first-round series with Columbus. "That's just not possible."
The Coyotes figure to mix and match their approaches against Holmstrom, who had 24 goals this season and an effect on numerous others.
"There are different philosophies on how to play Tomas," said Coyotes defenseman Mathieu Schneider, who spent two seasons as Holmstrom's teammate in Detroit. "Some teams leave him alone and they try to box out in front of him. Other teams get in his face and try to move him. At the end of the day, he's going to be there. There are copycats in the league, but no one does what he does quite like him."
Holmstrom knows that every new playoff series is its own dynamic when it comes to his style – both in how opponents defend him and how referees choose to call his tightrope act with the crease.
"The longer we go in the playoffs, it seems like the more (the officials) allow around the net," he said. "It's not in my hands. I play the same way. Their goalie (Bryzgalov) is a big guy, so he's harder to screen because he can look over your shoulder. You have to look and see where he's looking and try to block it out."
Schneider, brought in to give the Phoenix power play a lift, is a healthy scratch for Game 1. Phoenix coach Dave Tippett talked about the importance of matching the skill and speed of Detroit and will go with young Sami Lepisto as the sixth defenseman, even though the Coyotes finished the season on an 0-for-20 power-play drought
Tippett said center Robert Lang, who missed the last 20 games with a lower-body injury, is a "game-time decision," although he's not expected to play in Game 1.
Phoenix left wing Petr Prucha was skating with normal linemates and fellow Czechs Martin Hanzal and Radim Vrbata. Prucha has 13 goals this season, but only two in the last 32 games and the last two games of the regular season saw him scratched once and banished to the fourth line in another.
Game 1 primer
4.14.2010 / 12:00 PM ET
Detroit at Phoenix: 10:00 pm ET -- The teams split their four meetings during the 2009-10 season, though both Phoenix victories came in overtime…Three of the four were one-goal games – including the Coyotes’ wild 5-4 victory at Detroit on Jan. 26 in Phoenix’ only national televised game of the season. The Coyotes rallied from a 4-2 deficit in that game to score twice in the final 1:30 of regulation before captain Shane Doan won it in overtime.
Cinderella vs. Godzilla: It's hard to imagine a bigger disparity in playoff experience than this series. The Wings are taking part in their 19th consecutive postseason; the Coyotes are in for the first time since 2002. Detroit's roster includes a core of players who've been part of all four Cup-winners since 1997; the Coyotes' franchise has never gotten past the second round and GM Don Maloney didn't hire Dave Tippett as coach until the final week of the preseason. But the Coyotes were solid in one-goal games (29-6-7) avoided major losing streaks all season and don't figure to be cowed by the Wings' aura of success.