Red Wings end NHL odds trip at Phoenix Coyotes

By: Barry Daniels | Friday, March 4, 2011

The Red Wings’ 22-9-2-1 road record ranks second-best in the NHL.

The Detroit Red Wings are the oldest team in the NHL. That fact won’t bode well Saturday against the Phoenix Coyotes when the weary Wings play their third game in four nights at the end of a long road trip. The puck drops at Arena in Phoenix at 5:00 p.m. (PT).

Detroit started this strange five-game road excursion last Saturday by flying from Detroit to Buffalo and defeating the Sabres in a shootout, 3-2. The Wings then flew to the West Coast for three games against the Kings, Ducks and Sharks prior to Saturday’s contest against the Coyotes.

The Wings managed to outlast the Kings, 7-4, but the winning and offense has stopped there.

Mike Babcock’s troops dropped a 2-1 overtime decision Wednesday at Anaheim before suffering a 3-1 setback the next night in San Jose. The Wings closed as 135 road underdogs against the Sharks, with the combined four goals dipping ‘under’ the 5 ½-goal total.

Though the ‘under’ is 4-1 in the Wings’ last five games, the ‘over’ is still 34-31 in their first 65 overall encounters.

The back-to-back losses lowered Detroit’s ledger away from Joe Louis Arena to 22-9-2-1, which is still the second-best road record in the league. The Red Wings are outscoring the opposition on enemy ice by an average of 3.18 to 2.68.

Despite scoring one goal in each of their last two outings, the Red Wings are still tied for first offensively by averaging 3.2 GPG. They are averaging 33.3 shots on goal per game (2nd) and own the league’s fifth best power play with a 21.3 percent success rate.

However, Detroit is a dismal 18th on defense, allowing an average of 2.9 goals per game. The club is 16th shorthanded, killing of 81.9 percent of the opposition’s power play opportunities.

First-string goalie Jimmy Howard had the night off against San Jose, so he figures to be in goal in this spot against Phoenix. The 27-year-old second-year netminder is 31-12-3-1 with a .2.80 GAA, a .908 save percentage and two shutouts.

Phoenix saw its losing skid reach a season-high five games with Thursday’s 1-0 shutout setback against the Kings as a 155 road underdog. Ironically the losing skid occurred after the Coyotes had reeled off an eight-game winning streak that had put them atop the Pacific Division for 10 days.

The current slump has seen the Coyotes slip six points behind the red-hot first-place San Jose Sharks.

Though the one goal dipped well ‘under’ the 5 ½-goal closing total, the ‘over’ is still 36-27 in the Coyotes’ first 63 overall outings.

The five straight losses have lowered Phoenix’ overall ledger to 33-23-2-2, which is still pretty remarkable considering the club has been outscored by four goals through those 63 games (190-186).

Ilya Bryzgalov continues to get the majority of work between the Phoenix pipes. Bryzgalov is 27-17-4-3 in 53 starts with a 2.58 GAA, a .918 save percentage and five shutouts.

Phoenix has lost two of the three meetings against the Wings this season, but both setbacks went into a five-minute overtime session.

The first matchup (Oct. 16), saw the Wings nip the Coyotes as 100 road underdogs, 2-1, thanks to Niklas Kronwall’s goal with 16 seconds remaining in overtime. The Wings went 1-for-8 with the man advantage, while the Coyotes were 0-for-4. Detroit outshot Phoenix, 33-26.

Phoenix got revenge 12 days later by whipping the Wings 4-2 as a 155 road underdog. This was the lone game to go ‘over’ the 5 ½-goal closing total. Detroit again outshot Phoenix, 46-36, with each team registering one power play goal.

The most recent meeting (Nov. 8), saw the Wings nip the Coyotes as hefty 195 home favorites, 3-2. Henrik Zetterberg notched the winning goal just 1:23 into the overtime session. Both teams failed to score on the power play, with Detroit getting four opportunities and Phoenix three. The Wings again outshot the Coyotes, 40-31.

The Don Best Sports injury report lists one injury for each team. Detroit defenseman Brian Rafalski, who has missed the last two games with back spasms, is “doubtful.” Phoenix center Martin Hanzal is “questionable” after missing Thursday’s game with an upper body injury.

Phoenix continues its three-game homestand next Tuesday against Vancouver. The Wings are off until next Wednesday when they return home to host the Los Angeles Kings.

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