Red Wings-Coyotes Preview
The Detroit Red Wings remain one of the league's top teams despite their well-documented road struggles.
They haven't had much trouble when visiting the Phoenix Coyotes in recent years.
Detroit seeks a second consecutive road win for the first time in six weeks when it faces slumping Phoenix on Thursday night.
The Red Wings (30-15-1) are one point behind Western Conference-leading Chicago, but haven't won consecutive road contests since winning four straight Nov. 19-Dec. 2.
They're in position to do so again, though, after a 3-2 shootout win Tuesday at Dallas. Jiri Hudler scored in regulation and added the winner in the tiebreaker, while Ty Conklin made 25 saves through overtime.
The Wings' 12-13-0 road mark has been offset by a franchise-record 15 consecutive home wins and an 18-2-1 record at Joe Louis Arena. Detroit has allowed 69 goals on the road - nearly double the 36 it has yielded at home.
"We talked a lot about that today,'' coach Mike Babcock said. "We're averaging 1.7 (goals-against) at home and 2.7 against on the road. You can't win without checking. It's impossible. You can't outscore your mistakes. You've got to be diligent without the puck if you're going to have success.''
Detroit, which has won four in a row overall, is likely to be playing in front of All-Star goaltender Jimmy Howard, who got the night off Tuesday.
Howard leads the NHL with 27 wins and has a 1.98 goals-against average, though he's 1-2-0 with a 3.72 GAA in his last three road starts.
"The Central (Division) is tight and it's probably going to be like this until the final weekend,'' Howard said. "We've got to get points every single night to try to separate ourselves. Everyone understands the urgency we need to play with.''
Getting points hasn't been a problem for the Wings in their recent trips to Phoenix. Including postseason, Detroit is 14-2-2 in the desert since the start of 2005-06.
Howard is 6-0-1 with a 2.24 GAA in his last seven road starts against the Coyotes, with the last two victories coming in last season's playoffs. He's also won six straight starts overall versus Phoenix, including a 3-2 shootout home victory last Thursday.
Phoenix (21-19-7) has dropped four of five overall, and allowed its most goals since an opening-night defeat to San Jose in a 6-2 loss at Anaheim on Wednesday. The Coyotes gave up four unanswered goals after Daymond Langkow tied the game midway through the second period.
"They got some timely goals to break the game open. It was the difference in the game,'' Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said.
However, the Coyotes have outscored their opponents 11-2 while winning their last two home games. Boyd Gordon and Shane Doan each scored twice in a 6-1 victory over Colorado on Monday.
Mike Smith made 40 saves in last week's meeting with Detroit, though it's unclear if he'll be in net Friday. He's 1-4-1 with a 2.97 GAA lifetime versus the Red Wings.
Jason LaBarbera hasn't fared any better, going 1-3-2 with a 3.73 GAA in eight career appearances - six starts - against Detroit.