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Coyotes, Red Wings battling to stay in race

by Adam Kimelman

COYOTES (19-17-8) AT RED WINGS (20-16-8)


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

Season series: This will be the third and final meeting between the teams this season. They split their first two games -- the Detroit Red Wings won 3-2 in Phoenix on March 25, while the Coyotes won 4-2 at home on April 4.

Big Story: Both teams are fighting for their playoff lives. The Red Wings enter the week three points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets for eighth and final spot in the Western Conference, while the Phoenix Coyotes are five points back. 

Team Scope:

Coyotes: The lower-body injury that kept goalie Mike Smith out the past two games still is bothering him, but he plans on playing all four remaining games for the team, and hopefully more if the team can get back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Smith returned to the lineup Saturday and made 38 saves, plus two more in the shootout, as the Coyotes defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2 to remain alive for one of the final playoff spots in the Western Conference.

"It's do-or-die right now for us, as far as making the playoffs," Smith said following the game Saturday. "We've got to put our bodies on the line and do what we have to do to win games. Blocking shots is one of those things … so lots of credit to guys who get down and do that. It was a huge team effort."

"[Smith] was huge," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said Saturday. "We iced the puck [in the first], got stuck with a tired line out there. They came with the [Jonathan] Toews line and they put some good pressure on us. We were kind of laughing after the first period. We needed to get [Smith] into the game early and he got into the game early."

Red Wings: Todd Bertuzzi has been out since Feb. 7 with a pinched nerve in his back, but told reporters Saturday in Vancouver that he feels close to being able to return.

The injury has sapped strength from his leg, but he said he feels like the strength is almost all the way back.

"I'll go back to Detroit and see the doctor again and then hopefully [return] in the next couple [games]," Bertuzzi told "Just got to work hard and cheer the guys on. Pretty confident in the guys. The guys will get the job done."

Despite playing just seven games this season because of back issues, Bertuzzi feels like he can be a part of the Red Wings' late push for a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"I still feel like I can contribute, help out this team," he said. "I think that's the frustrating part. I felt so good at training camp and I was healthy, in great shape and this [stuff] happened."

Who's hot: Coyotes forward Radim Vrbata has goals in two straight games for the second time this season. … Red Wings forward Johan Franzen has three goals in his past four games

Injury Report: Coyotes forward Lauri Korpikoski is out with an upper-body injury. … The Red Wings are missing forwards Darren Helm (back), Bertuzzi (back), Mikael Samuelsson (pectoral) and Drew Miller (hand).

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