COYOTES (43-26-13) at RED WINGS (47-25-10)
TV: VERSUS, CBC (HD)
Phoenix 5-3-2; Detroit 4-4-2
The teams split four regular-season games on the 2010-11 schedule, but they've only met once since early November. Radim Vrbata
scored the only goal in a shootout to lift the Coyotes to a 5-4 win over the Red Wings on March 5 in Phoenix. Both of Detroit's victories came in overtime -- Niklas Kronwall
struck on the power play at 4:44 of the extra period on Oct. 16, while Henrik Zetterberg
's goal proved decisive on Nov. 8.
It's the second consecutive postseason in which these teams have met in the opening round, and already there are a couple things different about the 2011 matchup. This time, Detroit has home ice -- not that it seemed to matter a year ago when the road team went 5-2, including the Red Wings' Game 7 win in Phoenix. And while Coyotes captain Shane Doan
suffered a separated shoulder in Game 3 that caused him to miss the rest of the series, now the key injury may be on the other side: Zetterberg will be sidelined for Wednesday's opener -- and perhaps even longer -- with a lower-body injury suffered last week in Carolina.
Perhaps as important as any game they played down the stretch, Phoenix began to get healthy as defenseman Ed Jovanovski and forward Martin Hanzal
returned from injuries that cost them significant periods of time. The Coyotes went 1-1-1 over their final three games against a pair of Pacific Division rivals and fellow playoff participants in Los Angeles and San Jose. Now they're ready to see to some unfinished business after the Red Wings ruined their franchise-record 107-point season a year ago.
"Hopefully everyone still has a little bit of the bitter taste in their mouth of losing to them in Game 7," defenseman Keith 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."
There were some troubling efforts down the stretch for Detroit, most notably a 10-3 thumping by St. Louis on March 30, so it was a positive sign for the Red Wings when they bounced back from a 4-2 loss to the Blackhawks at Joe Louis Arena in the front end of a home-and-home to defeat the defending Stanley Cup champions 4-3 on the final day of the regular season. The Hawks were trying to clinch a playoff berth and came out desperate, making for the type of pressure-cooker atmosphere the Wings will face regularly from here on out.
"It was a lot of fun out there, they threw everything at us there in the third period and we withstood it," goaltender Jimmy Howard
said. "That's a great sign for us heading into the playoffs."
Doan had a pair of multi-point efforts over the Coyotes' final four games to finish with the team lead in both goals (20) and points (60). … Tomas Holmstrom
and Drew Miller
scored goals in both ends of the Red Wings' season-ending series against the Blackhawks.
Zetterberg is out and Kronwall (upper body) will be a game-time decision for Detroit. He missed the final five regular-season games. Goalie Chris Osgood (groin) has been practicing, but remains on injured reserve with Joey MacDonald
backing up Howard.
The starting goaltenders in this series didn't have a regulation loss between them in the regular-season series, as Ilya Bryzgalov posted a 2-0-2 record in starting all four games for the Coyotes and Howard went 2-0-1 in his three appearances.
In addition to having Doan healthy, one reason Phoenix feels the rematch against Detroit will turn out differently has to do with free-agent acquisitions Ray Whitney
and Eric Belanger, who combine to provide scoring, intensity and plenty of postseason experience.
"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."