By Dave Vest
DETROIT – Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett is concerned about his team's four-games-in-six-days journey this week because all four opponents are playing with desperation lately.
"They're going to be very competitive games," Tippett said. "We're going to have to manage our game very well on the road, play a strong team game on the road and we're going to need good goaltending."
The hectic trek begins Monday with a game against the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena. The puck drops at 5:30 p.m. (Arizona time).
Phoenix (19-11-2) has been rolling since Thanksgiving having earned at least one point in seven consecutive games. The Coyotes rank sixth in the Western Conference standings with 40 points. Games at Detroit, Toronto, Columbus and Anaheim this week certainly will test the team's focus, mettle, and chemistry.
Coyotes captain Shane Doan leads the team with 19 points despite notching just one point in his past five games.
Thanks to injuries to multiple key players (see INJURIES below), Detroit (16-11-5) is in ninth place in the Western Conference standings. That's new territory for the defending Conference champs.
"Being frustrated is just an absolute waste of time," Red Wings Head Coach Mike Babcock told reporters last week. "It's about being positive, digging in and staying within the structure. It's all part of life. Times are tough here in Detroit for people. Are they giving in or are they battling? We have to do the same thing - battle."
Detroit has won three of its past four games despite getting little offense from star forwards Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk. Zetterberg has scored zero goals in his past seven games, and Datsyuk has scored just one goal in his past 11 games.
Rookie Jimmy Howard will start in goal for the Red Wings.
Coyotes goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, who will make his 13th consecutive start, has won six of his last seven games with a 1.42 goals-against average in those games.
Red Wings right wing Todd Bertuzzi has scored four goals in the past two games. Two of those goals were overtime game-winners vs. Anaheim and Nashville on consecutive nights.
Coyotes defenseman Ed Jovanovski will return from a two-game NHL suspension. Despite missing 12 games because of injury/suspension, Jovanovski ranks fifth on the team with six goals and seventh with 14 points.
The Coyotes have established themselves as a dominant home team with a 12-5-0 record. However, they've struggled away from Glendale lately with a 1-2-2 record in their past five road games.
Red Wings Head Coach Mike Babcock (298) and Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett (290) rank first and second, respectively, in victories among NHL head coaches since the start of the 2002-03 season.
"They are a deep team and no matter who's going to be playing they're going to be good and well-prepared."