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Coyotes playing Red Wings, not foe's mystique

by Jerry Brown
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Teammates for two years in Detroit, current Coyotes Robert Lang and Mathieu Schneider know a little bit about Red Wings' playoff mystique. And, octopus aside, it will play a role again in 2010 when Detroit comes to Phoenix for Wednesday's Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Western Conference Quarterfinals (10 p.m. ET, VERSUS, TSN).

"Over the years, everyone has scouted the Red Wings in and out 50 times," said Lang, who spent two-plus seasons in Detroit (2005-07), just missing the 2008 Stanley Cup run. "In the end, it's just a good team. They are veteran group and they have done it a bunch of times in the playoffs. We have to get ready and when they come, you make sure you're bringing what you have.

"We've played very well the whole year and done well taking it one game and one opponent at a time. They are playing well and have been very strong to end the season. You definitely can't take that team lightly, only a fool would."

"It's a different time of the year, a different intensity and there is no time to rely on your past."
-- Mathieu Schneider on the Red Wings

The Coyotes and Red Wings have met once before in the postseason, also in the first round. Phoenix surprised the defending Stanley Cup champions by taking two of the first three games before losing both goalie Nikolai Khabibulin and defenseman Teppo Numminen to injury. The Red Wings rallied to not only win the next three games, but defend the Cup.

The Red Wings have a strong following around the NHL, but it is particularly strong in Arizona. Even as the Coyotes struggled before half-empty arenas, Detroit's two visits usually brought a full house. The Coyotes went so far as to tie Red Wings tickets to partial season ticket packages to force Red Wings fans to pay more for the chance to see their team and encourage them to adopt the Coyotes as their "second team."

Octopi were snuck into America West Arena in Phoenix for the 1998 series and are sure to make another appearance with Games 1 and 2 set for Glendale's newer Arena. But Schneider, who appeared in 40 playoff games as a Red Wing, said Detroit can't rely on mystique to get by.

"Robert will tell you that when we were there, if anything, teams played you harder because you were from Detroit," he said. "It makes things more difficult and taxing, especially in the first couple of rounds. It's a different time of the year, a different intensity and there is no time to rely on your past."

"I'm sure they realize that. They have great veteran leadership, but they also have a lot of new faces. They have a rookie in goal. At the end of the day, every year and every series is different."

The Coyotes don't have near the postseason pedigree, but they aren't a band of young pups either. Defensemen like Ed Jovanovski, Adrian Aucoin, Derek Morris and Schneider team with Keith Yandle, Zbynek Michalek, Sami Lepisto and James Vandermeer to give the Coyotes a deep, talented defense in front of record-breaking goalie Ilya Bryzgalov. And the additions of Wojtek Wolski, Lee Stempniak and Petteri Nokelainen added to Phoenix's scoring and depth up front, giving the team four legitimate lines for coach Dave Tippett to roll.

Tippett knows he's going to need every piston firing to have a chance against Motown.

"They were the Stanley Cup champion two years ago and the finalist last year and they are a very experience team. It's a great challenge for us," Tippett said. "We're a team that, at the start of the year, nobody gave us a chance ... probably there's no one giving us a chance against Detroit either. That's kind of what we've built our identity on. We'll focus on what we have to do, play as hard as we can and see what happens. So far, that's got us to where we are now."

Morris said he doesn't expect anyone to shy away from Detroit.

"Why not play them now?" he said. "If we're going anywhere, we've got to play them eventually. No matter who we played, we're prepared and ready. We're well-prepared, we have great coaching staff and great goaltending which is a key in the playoffs. We play as a team, we don't have a real individuals who are out there doing their own thing.

"We have the ingredients. Now we just have to do it."
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