RED WINGS at COYOTES
(Best-of-seven series tied, 3-3)
"History Will Be Made" is the tag line of a series of commercials highlighting the Stanley Cup Playoffs. There's no better place to make history than in a Game 7, which the fourth-seeded Coyotes and fifth-seeded Red Wings will grace fans with Tuesday.
Detroit isn't accustomed to playing seventh games on the road and hasn't won one since 1964. Phoenix is looking for its first playoff series win -- the last time the franchise advanced to the second round was when Winnipeg accomplished the feat in 1987. Something has to give.
It appeared Detroit had finally taken control of this series after winning Game 4 at Joe Louis Arena to draw even and then scoring three times in the final 10 minutes of Game 5 in Phoenix for a 4-1 win that pushed the Coyotes to the brink. But the Red Wings came out with a dud in front of their home fans Sunday, yielding an early shorthanded goal and three power-play strikes en route to a 5-2 loss that sent them back to the desert. Now there is no margin for error.
"We have a mentally strong group," said Kris Draper, a member of four Stanley Cup winners in Detroit. "We have a lot of leadership, a lot of experience, a lot of playoff games under our belt and now these are the experiences that we're going to draw from."
Will this finally be the night Phoenix gets its captain back? Shane Doan
went careening over the skate of Howard and heavily into the boards in Game 3 and hasn't played since, but he practiced with the team Monday and intends to be in the lineup for this do-or-die battle if at all possible. Either way, Jobing.com Arena will be rocking and it will be up to the Coyotes to harness the atmosphere and use it to their advantage.
"I've been involved in a few Game 7s. They're emotional games," said defenseman Ed Jovanovski, who played in four during his time in Florida and Vancouver. "Playing at home, you have to prepare to jump on (Detroit) early, feed off the crowd and try to set the tone of the game. The place is going to be wild and electric. You just have to go out, have fun and enjoy it."
The Coyotes' power play has run either hot or cold in this series, but it's hot once again after Mathieu Schneider, Radim Vrbata
and Taylor Pyatt
all connected in the Game 6 win. Schneider and Robert Lang, who set up Vrbata's goal, are former Red Wings.
"It's one game," Schneider told the Arizona Republic. "I don't want to say we solved it, but it worked for us, and we want to keep doing the same thing. The fundamentals were there on the power play, when you look at the way we moved it.
"We had some real good puck movement, got some good shots. Robert Lang does a good job calming things down on the half-wall, just a big body, great reads, but everyone did a really good job."
Doan will once again be a game-time decision. While it would be hard imagining him sitting out a Game 7 if he's at all able to play, Phoenix coach Dave Tippett cautioned against letting the heart rule the head.
"His will and desire to play is unquestioned, it's his function to play (that is at issue)," he said. "These aren't exhibition games where you can come in and kind of tip-toe in. You've got to be all-in. We'll have to be able to decide if he can get through that challenge."
The Red Wings are 4-4 overall in Game 7s since 1991, most recently losing to the Penguins in the Stanley Cup Final last June. … The Coyotes are 0-4 all-time in Game 7 and Doan is the only player remaining from their most recent seventh game, against St. Louis in 1999.
Home ice hasn't meant very much in this series, but Game 7 can be a different beast. Teams scratch and claw for every last point during the regular season in the hopes of gaining that one extra game in their building to decide who wins and who loses. Since 1939, home teams are 80-49 in Game 7, a .620 winning percentage.