The Wings have done very little wrong in the previous three games, holding the league’s fifth-best 5-on-5 goal scoring team during the regular-season to just two even-strength tallies in Game 1 back in Detroit.
Statistics aside, and the fact that Detroit jumped on the Coyotes early in Game 3, the Wings aren’t foolish enough to believe that Jobing.com Arena won’t be full of emotion when their hockey team skates onto the ice in what could be the final NHL game ever played in Arizona.
It’s been rumored for sometime now that the Coyotes, whose day-to-day operations are controlled by the league, will move back to Canada. The Coyotes moved to the desert from Winnipeg in the summer of 1996. And they’ve never been swept in a playoff series since then.
“No team wants to lose. They want to keep their season going” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “They will compete hard and lay it all on the line.”
Even down 0-3, the Coyotes have played hard and haven’t made it easy on the Wings, especially in the neutral zone. The Coyotes have also made it a habit of hitting Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom
with every chance they gotten. And the Wings can certainly expect that treatment to continue when the puck drops Wednesday.
“It happens every year,” said Lidstrom, referring to the physical abuse. “So I’m not surprised by it. That’s just the way playoff hockey is. They try to go after certain guys or try to finish checks and be physical. That’s part of playoff hockey and that’s why it’s fun too, and why you’re so excited about playing in the playoffs.”
The thing that the Wings can’t do is retaliate.
“Just stay poised,” Lidstrom said. “Don’t throw the puck away unless you have to. You can make plays when they’re coming after you hard and you can make plays around them and find openings that way.”
Following Wednesday’s morning skate, Babcock was asked if he thought that a possible move out of Arizona was on the minds of players and coaches in the Phoenix locker room.
“If you’re Dave Tippett and you’re one of the best coaches in the league, hear that stuff it bothers you for a second, and you get on with your day,” Babcock said. “That’s what players do too. These players all have busy lives and things going on. When they come to the rink they’re businessmen. And they’re doing everything they can to win. To me it has no bearing on anything; you come here to play the game. And at the end they’ll tell them if they’re staying or not. … So to me, that’s what you do.”
Lidstrom sad that he would be sad to see them leave.
“It’s a nice place to visit, that’s for sure. I don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s hard for us to comment on what’s going to happen, but it’s always enjoyable coming here. And we always draw some big Red Wings crowds with us being down here.” MILLER TIME:
Often during the regular-season, Drew Miller
was a healthy scratch. In this first round series against the Coyotes, Miller, along with others, has added energy on the Wings’ third and fourth lines.
“We had 14 forwards when we’re healthy and two guys had to sit out,” said Miller, of the regular-season logjam at his position. “I think all of us are capable of playing and whoever is in the lineup and whoever is on whatever line, you just have to contribute anyway you can. I think right now all four lines are playing well.
Unfortunately for Miller, sitting out games was something that he had to adjust to.
“It’s tough to be in the rotation,” he said. “You kind of learn lot about yourself and you have to battle through. And even though you’re out, you have to come right back and give your best effort in the next game and try to prove yourself whether it’s practice or when you get a chance to play. You have to make the most of every opportunity.”
Miller’s role in the playoffs is as expected: add a grinding, physical element whether he’s skating on the third or fourth line. But every now and again, scoring a goal is a special feel-good moment, like Monday’s first-period tally that helped the Wings to a fantastic start in a 4-2 win.
“Anytime anyone scores you get that little more confidence in yourself and you try to ride that confidence wave as long as you can. I think it’s big for our team,” he said. “Sure it’s good to see Pavel (Datsyuk) put up a lot of points, but when he sees other guys score – I scored, Rusty scored – it takes a little pressure off some of those guys. They know that they don’t have to provide points every single game. It’s a more balanced lineup and that’s only going to help us in the long run.”
And they contribution of guys like Miller, Justin Abdelkader
and Darren Helm
doesn’t go unnoticed by the veterans.
“Yeah, I thought they had a great game for us,” Lidstrom said. “They were hanging onto the puck and making plays. They’re all good skaters and it makes it hard to play against, especially when they’re working hard they way they did, hanging onto the puck and not throwing it away.”