By Dave Vest
GLENDALE – The Coyotes will conclude a three-game homestand tonight with a game against the Detroit Red Wings at Jobing.com Arena. The puck drops at 6 p.m. (Arizona time).
Phoenix's past three games have been decided by nail-biting shootouts; one win and two losses.
Tight games are nothing new for the Coyotes. In fact, exactly half of Phoenix's first 42 games have been decided by just one goal. The Coyotes are 13-4-4 in those games.
"I think it's a great learning experience," Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said of all the close games. "Those types of games build character in your team. It puts you in very delicate situations where every play in the game counts and we've found a way to get on top of that."
He added, "Those are games that prepare you for hard games that are coming up down the stretch."
Ilya Bryzgalov will start in goal for the Coyotes (25-13-4), who have split the first two games against Detroit this season. Both teams won 3-2 on home ice.
Phoenix is hoping tonight is the night center Vernon Fiddler (lower-body injury) and/or defenseman Jim Vandermeer (upper-body injury) can return to the lineup after missing recent games. Both practiced with teammates on Friday. Forward Daniel Winnik, who is on the injured-reserve list, also practiced Friday but he is not expected back for a while.
Detroit also is coping with injuries (see INJURIES below). Despite not having so many key players in the lineup, the Red Wings have won six of their last 10 games. In its past four losses, however, Detroit has scored a total of three goals.
The Red Wings (20-14-6) will enter the game ranked 10th in the Western Conference standings with 46 points.
"Every time you play Detroit you're in for a very competitive game," Tippett said. "... The last time we played them they simply outworked us. Our goal is to make sure that doesn't happen again."
Coyotes right wing Scottie Upshall has notched four goals and five assists in the past seven games. He leads the team with 14 goals.
Red Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom has chipped in four assists in the past three games. He leads the team in plus/minus rating at plus-10.
Many observers believe Coyotes captain Shane Doan was wrongly left off Team Canada's roster for the Olympics. Tonight will be Doan's first game against Team Canada/Red Wings Head Coach Mike Babcock since the roster was announced.
The Coyotes haven't lost in regulation at Jobing.com Arena since Nov. 16.
Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett ranks second among all NHL coaches in regular-season victories (296) since 2002-03, the season he started as an NHL head coach with Dallas. Only Red Wings Head Coach Mike Babcock has won more regular-season games (302) in that time.
"They have unbeliavable talent on offense. You've got to respect that but at the same time try not to focus too much on that because it changes your own game."