A visit from the lowly Arizona Coyotes could provide Detroit with an excellent opportunity to win back-to-back games for the first time in almost three weeks.
It’s been even longer since the Red Wings have done so at home.
They can accomplish both by sending the Coyotes to a ninth consecutive defeat Tuesday night.
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Though Detroit is third in the Atlantic Division, Sunday’s 2-1 shootout victory over St. Louis was its third in nine games.
”You get sick and tired of losing, especially when you’re not used to it,” coach Mike Babcock said. ”They’re smart people, they know what the standings are and they want to be in the playoffs. That’s what we expected from the get-go – to make the playoffs – and that’s where we’re at.”
The Red Wings (39-21-11) are in good position to extend the NHL’s longest active playoff streak to 24 seasons, but their immediate concern is winning two straight at home for the first time since a six-game run Dec. 23-Jan. 31. Including Sunday’s opener of a four-game homestand, Detroit plays eight of its final 12 at Joe Louis Arena.
"It’s obviously nice to be at home and nice to be able to take advantage of this week here," winger Erik Cole told the Red Wings’ official website after scoring for the third time in five games Sunday.
"We need to be prepared every night and preparing ourselves for playoff hockey and continue to claw our way and climb our way in the standings."
Detroit won 3-1 at Arizona (21-44-8) on Feb. 7.
The Coyotes followed with a 3-2 shootout victory at Chicago two days later, but are 1-17-1 since and have been outscored 24-8 while losing seven straight on the road in regulation. They last dropped eight consecutive road games in a season in 2003-04, but haven’t dropped that many in regulation away from home since 1992-93.
After Sunday’s 3-1 home loss to Vancouver, Arizona has been outscored 22-7 in an 0-7-1 stretch. Its last regulation victory anywhere came at Columbus, 4-1 on Feb. 3.
"Everyone is frustrated. No one likes to lose," Mike Smith told the Coyotes’ official website after making 41 saves Sunday.
Smith’s 37 losses are the most since Bob Essensa posted that total for Winnipeg and Detroit in 1993-94 – one season after Edmonton’s Bill Ranford became the last to lose 38.
Smith stopped 23 shots against the Red Wings last month.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson remains one of the few bright spots in a dark season for Arizona after extending his career high with a 20th goal Sunday. Among the NHL’s top-scoring defensemen, the All-Star is eight points shy of matching his career-best 44 from last season.
”He’s a special player,” coach Dave Tippett said.
Ekman-Larsson had the lone goal against the Red Wings on Feb. 7 but doesn’t have a point in six career games at Joe Louis Arena.
Tomas Tatar had a goal and two assists in the last meeting with Arizona, but Detroit’s goal leader has gone without a point in six straight at home.