Like most former NHL players who didn't call Joe Louis Arena home, Phoenix Coyotes television analyst Tyson Nash doesn't have a lot of good memories that involve "The Joe" -- and his eyes aren't the only sense responsible for his flashback.
"Just the smell of the place when you walk in … it reminds you of some of the lousiest nights in your career," Nash said. "It's never been a very nice place for me."
For the current Coyotes, however, their last memory of Hockeytown is a fond one. And when they return Sunday afternoon for Game 3 of their Western Conference Quarterfinal series with Detroit, thoughts of Jan. 28 might bring a few smiles in the dressing room.
Down 4-2 with 1:30 left in regulation, the Coyotes used goals by Keith Yandle and Ed Jovanovski to tie the game and force overtime -- where captain Shane Doan potted the 5-4 game-winner. It was just one victory -- but it started a six-game Phoenix winning streak that transformed the Coyotes from a team on the fringe of the playoffs to a club that set a franchise record with 107 points.
"We had a few bad losses before that game and we didn't need another one," Doan said. "Those are the games that teach you to keep going and we became a good comeback team."
The Coyotes need that kind of comeback again after Friday night's 7-4 home loss to the Red Wings in Game 2 -- a game that saw Phoenix forced out of its successful, tight checking system and into a run-and-gun game with Detroit. They kept pace for a while, but the Red Wings' skill won out as the line of Valtteri Filppula, Henrik Zetterberg and Todd Bertuzzi combined for five goals and eight points, with Zetterberg completing his first playoff hat trick with an empty-netter.
"They definitely played well, but we gave it to them" Doan said. "You give them that many chances, that many goals, you're not going to beat them. We played into their hands for the most part. And if they make as many mistakes as we did (in Game 3) then we'll beat them."
The Coyotes could be looking at some lineup changes for Game 3 -- one by choice, one due to injury.
Looking for more defensive play at the blue line and more strength down low around the crease, veteran James Vandermeer could replace Sami Lepisto, who struggled in both games.
Center Vernon Fiddler, a big key to Phoenix's success this season and a faceoff and special teams ace, left Game 2 in the final minutes with an upper-body injury and is listed as day-to-day. One option for the Coyotes is former Wing Robert Lang, who has missed the last 19 games with a lower-body injury but who has been taking part in full practices and says he's ready to play if needed.
The Coyotes are hoping for one more change -- they are hoping goalie Ilya Bryzgalov is more like himself for the rest of the series. Bryzgalov settled down after whiffing on an early 40-foot floater by Detroit's Tomas Holmstrom in Game 1, but he allowed a season-high six goals on Friday and saw his career playoff goals-against average of 1.70 take a pounding.
Zetterberg's game-winning goal came on a juicy rebound given up in the slot, the kind Bryzgalov hasn't been giving up all season.
"We haven't made a lot of the mistakes we made (in Game 2) and when we have, Bryz has been there to clean them up," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. "We made a lot of mistakes (in Game 2) and he was part of that."
After a strong first period Friday, the Coyotes also got away from the physical play that gave the Red Wings trouble in Game 1. Once the Red Wings has some operating space on the ice, the goals came quickly.
So while the scene and the venue changes, the game plan remains the same.
"It's a big game for us. (Game) 1 and (Game) 3 are the big games, and we know that," Doan said.
"We've beat them there before, and we'll have to do it again."