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And the hits keep comin'

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
GLENDALE, Ariz. – The Red Wings can expect a very physical-minded Coyotes team when the two teams line-up for Wednesday’s Game 3 of the Western Conference quarterfinals at Arena.

The series has already been a bruising style with players on both teams leaving games after big hits.

Ed Jovanovski, the Coyotes’ veteran defenseman, isn’t one to shy from the physical aspects of the game. And though he’s still recovering from a fractured orbital bone, he highly anticipates more rough and tumble play in this series.

“It’s one of those areas of the game that can sway the momentum – being physical – and we’re a team that gets in there hard to forecheck and we’re told to eliminate bodies,” Jovanovski said. “It’s going to be part of the game that could determine some sort of outcome.”

Wings forward Justin Abdelkader said that he welcomes the physicality.

“I think they’ll be energized tonight; they’re coming back here to their building,” Abdelkader said. “We just have to prepare ourselves because we know it’s going to be a physical battle. They’re probably going to be just as physical as they were before, or even more.”

While Abdelkader only has played in 23 career playoff games, eight of the games have come against the Coyotes, which gives the former Michigan State standout a better understanding of what to expect once the puck drops on Game 3.
“I would say I’m acclimated to it, for sure. I think you always have to keep your head up, but know that it might be a little more physical. At the same time you always have to keep your head up out there, because you never know who might be coming up and making hits. Just know your surroundings and know where people are at.

“I enjoy it. I’ve always enjoyed the physical part of the game, so it’s always been fun for me.”

For the Coyotes, they are in survival mode, knowing that they can’t afford to fall into an 0-3 hole against Detroit.

“We have to defend home ice,” Jovanovski said. “I think we have to improve in all areas. And we can all give a little bit more. And hopefully the result is what we want and it will get us back in this series.”

Three third-period power-play goals managed to spark some life into the Coyotes in Game 2. And despite falling short in a comeback, Phoenix will look to capitalize on that energy when Game 3 begins.

“Our power-play gave us a chance,” Jovanovski said. “Obviously, our backs were against the wall there in the third period. But now we have to be more involved.”

BAD 10-YEAR MEMORY: Monday marks the 10 year anniversay of an NHL rookie center's very first Stanley Cup playoff goal.

Unfortunately for the Red Wings, that rookie was Eric Belanger, whose overtime goal not only lifted Los Angeles to a 4-3 win in Game 4 of that Western Conference quarterfinals series, it gave the Kings just enough momentum to win the next two games and take the series 4-2.

Belanger and his Coyotes' teammates find themselves in a similar predicament heading into Monday’s pivotal Game 3, down 0-2 in the series to the Wings.

“I was thinking about that yesterday, actually,” Belanger said. “I’ve been in that situation against them before. We were down 2-0 to them with the Kings. It’s a situation where we can get some momentum if we beat them tonight. But remembering that series is one of those things, because I was a rookie and I didn’t know much about the playoffs. But for me, scoring that big goal, was a great feeling. To come back and win it was a great feeling for a rookie.”

Belanger knows all too well the lows and highs that a single playoff series can bring. The memory of watching his Capitals jump to a 3-1 series lead, only to lose to the Montreal Canadiens in Game 7 last spring is very vivid.

“There have been a lot of guys who have gone through adversity in the playoffs,” Belanger said. “You can’t get too down on yourself and you can’t feel too good about yourself if you’re up 2-0 or 3-1 in a series.

“The best example is last year when in was in Washington and we were up 3-1 against Montreal and we lost in seven. So it’s never over until it’s over, and we still have confidence in our abilities and try to take this game tonight.”

As for the OT goal that he scored against the Wings, he remembers it as if it where yesterday. And, as he noted, it’s not like he’s scored a lot in the playoffs.

“I remember (Adam) Deadmarsh put the puck in front of the net and I was on the chance and nobody saw me coming and the rebound popped in front of me and I put it in,” said Belanger, who as two goals in 39 career postseason games. “I even remember taking around and seeing the referee, Mick McGeogh, waving it off. The replay took forever, but when they pointed that the goal was good it was a greatest feeling.”

WINGS NOTES: Monday’s Game 3 will be career playoff game No. 167 for forward Tomas Holmstrom, tying him for fifth in the Red Wings’ recordbook with Darren McCarty. … Nicklas Lidstrom’s next power-play goal will tie him for fifth in NHL history for most career playoff PPGs with hall of famer Mario Lemieux at 29. … Heading onto Game 3, the Red Wings have the league’s best power-play in these playoffs with a 37.5 % efficiency, scoring three times on eight opportunities. … Pavel Datsyuk is tied for the playoff lead in scoring (five points) with three others – Vancouver’s Daniel Sedin, Nashville’s Mike Fisher and Anaheim’s Corey Perry.

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