Head Coach Dave Tippett led the team through an hour-long, up-tempo practice at the Ice Den in Scottsdale, where the message around the rink was that this is a new series and that last season’s series loss to the Red Wings is ancient history.
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“This is a whole new team,” Tippett said. “We battled for 82 games, we earned the right to be a playoff team, we know our opponent well, our mind-set should be ‘let’s get going.’”
Veteran forwards Ray Whitney
and Eric Belanger weren’t around last season when Detroit beat Phoenix four games to three. The pair has combined to play in a total of 120 NHL playoff games, and Captain Shane Doan
thinks their experience will be key for Phoenix.
“They’ve played in big games, they’ve had success in big games, and they’re both gritty guys that compete hard,” Doan said. “That’s what the playoffs are all about; it comes down to competing.”
Doan, who was injured in Game 3 of last season’s series and missed the final four games, was a physical presence against the Red Wings when healthy, and he says he’s looking to duplicate that physicality again in this series.
“I have to play physical to be successful,” Doan said. “You look at their guys with (Pavel) Datsyuk, (Henrik) Zetterberg and (Johan) Franzen, they’re incredibly skilled guys. And their back end with (Niklas) Lidstrom and (Brian) Rafalski, obviously they’ve got a lot of skill. I’ve got to be physical. If I’m physical I can help our team out.”
Not only will Doan’s health be key, but the health of his teammates is important and Tippett thinks the recent return of players like Ed Jovanovski and Martin Hanzal
have been a boost to his team’s lineup.
“I think getting some players back healthy has really helped our game,” Tippett said. “You get players like Jovanovski and Hanzal back it just makes us a deeper team.”
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In last season’s playoff series, the Coyotes won two out of the three games in Detroit, and during this year’s regular season they collected three out of a possible four points there. Defenseman Keith Yandle
thinks the atmosphere at the Joe Louis Arena encourages everyone to play their best.
“When you play in Detroit you get a little more psyched up than an ordinary game because of who they are, (and) what players they have,” Yandle said. “You want to prove that you can play with those guys.”
While the Coyotes are trying to focus on this season’s matchup with Detroit, Yandle said he and his teammates haven’t forgotten about last season.
“Hopefully everyone still has a little bit of the bitter taste in their mouth of losing to them in Game 7,” Yandle said. “Maybe playing Detroit, a team that we’re familiar with in the playoffs and we play them a bunch during the season, maybe it might be a thing where we’re able to pump ourselves up a little bit more, use a little bit from last year for this year.”