GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Detroit Red Wings and Arizona Coyotes won’t be going to the playoffs this season, but they are embroiled in another postseason battle of sorts. While the Coyotes are 10-8-2 in their last 20 games, Detroit is 6-12-2 in its last 20.
Colorado has all but locked up the worst record in the NHL and the corresponding best odds in the upcoming NHL Draft Lottery. For much of the season, Arizona sat 29th in the league standings, well behind a grouping of other teams, but the Coyotes’ recent play has pushed them within reach of several teams.
Entering their meeting with Detroit at Gila River Arena on Thursday, the 29th place Coyotes (60 points) were two points behind 28th place New Jersey, three points behind 27th place Detroit, four points behind 26th place Dallas and five points behind 25th place Vancouver.
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Standings position will be even more significant with the expansion Vegas Golden Knights joining the mix next season. Vegas will be afforded the same odds as the third-worst team in the league standings at the Draft Lottery, making the bottom two positions precious spots for existing teams, with 17.9 percent and 12.1 percent chances of earning the No. 1 overall pick.
“That’s not even a consideration for us,” said Coyotes coach Dave Tippett, whose team has received major contributions from its rookies and second-year players over the past two months. “We’re just trying to push this young group forward and establish a winning culture.”
Arizona won its third straight on Tuesday in Los Angeles, thanks to a late goal from left winger Max Domi and an 11th round shootout goal from rookie defenseman Anthony DeAngelo. The win hurt the Kings’ fading playoff chances.
“I think from here on out that’s what we’re going to see quite a bit is a lot of teams we’re going up against are great hockey teams that are trying to put themselves in a playoff spot or climb the standings,” Domi said. “Either or, so it’s a good test for us and a great way to try and finish on a positive note.”
Rookie left winger Anthony Mantha returned to the Red Wings lineup on Wednesday in Colorado after being a healthy scratch for two games. He skated on a line with center Frans Nielsen and right winger Darren Helm. Mantha is eighth among NHL rookies in scoring with 33 points (14 goals, 19 assists) in 50 games, but he was a minus-2 in a 6-1 loss to Boston on March 8.
“It’s just being more prepared to play in every game, every shift, to compete at a higher level,” he said. “That’s the message they wanted to send to me, and that what I was thinking about when I was sitting out.”
Red Wings left winger Henrik Zetterberg needs one goal for 324 to tie Norm Ullman for sixth place in Detroit history. Peter Mrazek is expected to start in goal for the Red Wings.
Arizona defenseman Kevin Connauton (upper body) and center Alexander Burmistrov (concussion) are still listed as day to day and expected to miss their seventh and eighth straight games, respectively. Center Brad Richardson (broken right tibia and fibula) is on injured reserve but has resumed skating and could return to full practice soon. Mike Smith is expected to start in goal for the Coyotes.