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Preview: Red Wings at Coyotes

Monday, 03.25.2013 / 5:19 PM

Season series: This is the first of three meetings. The Red Wings took three of four from the Coyotes last season, although Phoenix won the last meeting, 3-1, at Jobing.com Arena.

Big story: These are two teams trending in opposite directions. Detroit has won four of five, including two straight against the Western Conference’s hottest team in Anaheim. Phoenix, meanwhile, has lost five straight (0-4-1) and will be without starting goaltender Mike Smith.

Team scope:

Coyotes: Before departing on their recent four-game road trip, the Coyotes won two straight against Dallas and Los Angeles and were looking to climb into playoff contention. Then they didn’t score a goal for three games. In all, their 0-3-1 road trip saw them outscored 10-2 in regulation.

Phoenix was back at home Thursday against Vancouver, and again struggled to score in a 2-1 loss – its fifth straight overall. To add injury to insult, Smith left the game after being charged by Alexander Edler late in the second period.

Head Coach Dave Tippett on Monday said backup Jason LaBarbera would start the game. Chad Johnson, whom the team recalled from the American Hockey League on Saturday, will serve as the backup.

LaBarbera last started a game on March 6 at Anaheim. He stopped 22 of 23 shots in that game but Phoenix lost 2-0. Moreover, he has stopped 58 of 60 shots in his last five appearances - a .967 save percentage.

Meanwhile, forward David Moss is expected to return to the lineup after missing the past two games because of a lower-body injury. Defenseman Zbynek Michalek (lower-body injury) is skating with teammates now but won't play vs. Detroit.

The Coyotes will enter the game in 12th place in the Western Conference standings with 17 games left to play.

"We've just got to go out and prove to everybody that we're a playoff team," forward Mikkel Boedker said after Sunday's practice.

Red Wings: If Detroit makes a deep postseason run this spring, count on pundits harking back to the team’s most recent stretch. After failing to coalesce during the first half of the season, the Red Wings have won four of five and appear to be hitting their stride at the right moment.

The Red Wings announced themselves to the rest of the conference over the weekend, when they played Anaheim twice in a row at the Honda Center. In the first, Justin Abdelkader scored a hat trick as the Red Wings throttled the Ducks 5-1 to snap their franchise-record home win streak.

And on Sunday, Daniel Cleary and Drew Miller scored first-period goals in a 2-1 win as Detroit again played effective defense down the stretch and suddenly, Anaheim’s winning streak had turned into a losing skid.

"I think a lot of people outside this locker room didn't really think that (this would happen)," said Miller, a former Duck. "Coming into Anaheim, they say they might take one out of two. But I know the mindset in here was we're going to come in here and play hard and we want to get wins every single night. The two wins now are huge and we've got to build off the positives and keep going."

Backup goaltender Jonas Gustavsson will likely be in net for Detroit. Gustavsson's first start since March 13 would also mark his first matchup with the Coyotes.

Who’s hot: Coyotes center Martin Hanzal has six goals in his last six regular-season games against Detroit and scored twice in the most recent matchup... Red Wings defenseman Jakub Kindl, who leads the team and ranks fourth among all NHL defensemen with a +16 rating, has notched three points in the last four games.

Injury report: Smith is day-to-day with the upper-body injury suffered in Thursday’s game against Vancouver. ... Mikael Samuelsson is day-to-day for Detroit with a hand injury. Kyle Quincey (face), Todd Bertuzzi (back) and Darren Helm (back) will continue to miss time with their injuries.

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