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Coyotes look to close the gap on Red Wings

by Tal Pinchevsky

RED WINGS (18-13-5) at COYOTES (15-15-6)


Last 10: Detroit 6-4-0; Phoenix 2-5-3

Season series: This is the second of three meetings this season between two teams who will wrap up their series in Detroit on April 22. The Red Wings won the previous meeting 3-2 on March 25 and took the head-to-head series 3-1-0 last season.

Big story: While Detroit is in seventh place and Phoenix sits in the 12th spot in the Western Conference, these teams are only five points apart. With 11 teams separated by nine points in the Western Conference, every game becomes more and more crucial in the final three weeks of the NHL season.

Team Scope:

Red Wings: After winning five of six games in the latter part of March, the Red Wings hit a snag as they closed out the month, falling 2-0 in San Jose on Thursday before being dismantled 7-1 at home by the Blackhawks in a nationally-televised game on Sunday.

Detroit looked to turn things around Monday at Joe Louis Arena against the Colorado Avalanche. Justin Abdelkader opened the scoring with 4:03 remaining in the first period when Johan Franzen's shot bounced off Semyon Varlamov's blocker and found the Wings forward by the side of the net. Daniel Cleary and Damien Brunner scored 3:26 apart in the second, chasing Varlamov and blowing the game wide open.

Colorado outshot the Wings 9-4 in the final period, getting goals from Jamie McGinn and Matt Duchene to pull to within a goal. But Jimmy Howard held the fort to preserve the 3-2 win.

"The guys responded," coach Mike Babcock said. "On a back-to-back, it was a real big win for our team. We needed it."

Coyotes: After ending the month of March with a 1-5-3 run, April couldn't start soon enough for the Coyotes. They started the month by opening a three-game homestand Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Kings, a team that beat them in back-to-back games played during their previous skid.

Against the Kings, Keith Yandle opened the scoring midway through a high-flying first period in which the two teams combined for 28 shots. But the Coyotes' lead was short-lived, as Justin Williams replied for the Kings just 70 seconds later when his shot from a severe angle bounced off Michael Stone and past Jason LaBarbera. Despite being outshot 16-8 in the middle period, Matthew Lombardi put the Coyotes ahead 2-1 with his fourth goal of the season.

The Kings pushed late in the third to tie the game, but Yandle put the game away with 2:53 remaining in regulation when he notched his second of the game. Yandle's first multi-goal game since Jan. 26, 2010 and LaBarbera's 39 saves secured a big 3-1 Coyotes victory.

Who's hot: Pavel Datsyuk and Niklas Kronwall both have three points in their past four games for the Red Wings while Howard has allowed two or fewer goals in four of his past five games. … Yandle now has five points in his past five games while Radim Vrbata has six points in his past six games. Recent call-up Rob Klinkhammer has six points over his current five-game point streak.

Injury report: Red Wings forwards Henrik Zetterberg (groin) and Mikael Samuelsson (upper body) remain day-to-day while Darren Helm (back) and Todd Bertuzzi (back) are traveling with the team but remain on injured reserve along with defensemen Kyle Quincey (upper body). … Forward Lauri Korpikoski (upper body) will likely miss his fifth straight game for the Coyotes while Mike Smith (upper body) and Zbynek Michalek (ankle) are on IR.

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