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Sickly Coyotes get healthy at expense of Red Wings

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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Standing on the bench, a bucket on either side of him and four of his six defensemen suffering from a stomach virus, Phoenix Coyotes coach Dave Tippett didn't know what to expect.

But thanks to Chris Conner, who arrived from the minors a handful of hours before the morning skate, Tippett and the Coyotes earned a much-needed two points.

Conner scored during Phoenix's three-goal second period and the Coyotes beat the Detroit Red Wings 4-2 on Thursday night.

"He's a guy who has been hungry for an opportunity," Tippett said of Conner. "There's a protocol that we use that the players who are playing the best get the opportunity. They have to earn the opportunity. He's a tenacious little player."

Conner, who had a goal and two assists in eight games last season for Detroit, broke a 1-1 tie when he took a pass from Mikkel Boedker and beat Jimmy Howard to his blocker side, this time from the bottom of the right faceoff circle at 8:08.

"I just want to bring energy and use my speed and do whatever I can to help the team win," Conner said. "I like to use my speed as my asset and get chances off that."

Conner helped fill gaps caused first by trade-deadline deals and then by a stomach bug that spread through the team's roster.

"That to me is one of the more amazing wins in the regular season I've been around," Tippett said. "I don't know what happened but throughout the afternoon we had five or six guys who were sick, who were questionable to play. We had the wounded dog theory today. It was interesting before the game trying to figure out what we were going to do."

Michael Stone, Shane Doan and Martin Hanzal also scored for the Coyotes, who rallied from an early 1-0 deficit with three goals in 14-plus minutes of the second period.

The Coyotes had 20 shots on goal in the second, their most shots in a single period since Feb. 14, 2009, against Calgary and more than they have had in 21 full games this season.

"In the end they tilted the rink on us," said Red Wings coach Mike Babcock. "We have to give them credit but in the end we're disappointed with ourselves. Some of these wounds were (self) inflicted."

Phoenix's second straight win and third in four games moved the Coyotes into 11th place in the Western Conference, one point behind Edmonton and Columbus for the conference's final playoff spot.

"The penalty kill was big today and it showed," said goalie Chad Johnson, who learned early in the afternoon that he'd be starting because Jason LaBarbera was among the flu-ridden. "I knew it was a big game so I just wanted to go out there and give us a chance to win."

Vallteri Filppula and Daniel Cleary scored for the Red Wings, who have lost three of four but remain in seventh place in the Western Conference.

Filppula gave Detroit a 1-0 lead 1:56 into the game, firing home a long rebound past Johnson for a power-play goal.

Stone tied the score at 1:47 of the second on a blast from the top of the right circle that went over Howard's blocker.

Doan made it 3-1 at 16:01 after Keith Yandle found Hanzal at the top of the Detroit zone with a long outlet pass. Hanzal carried the puck in and slid it to Doan, who slipped the puck between Howard's pads from the top of the crease.

Babcock pulled Howard for the extra attacker with 2:25 to go and the Red Wings received a power play when an attempt by Mikkel Boedker sailed over the glass.

Cleary took advantage, redirecting a Henrik Zetterberg shot past Johnson from the top of the crease to cut Phoenix's lead to 3-2.

But Hanzal, after a faceoff to Johnson's left with 9.9 seconds left, swept the puck the length of the ice for an empty-net goal with 0.7 of a second to go.

Both Johnson and Howard finished with 34 saves.

NOTES: Phoenix defenseman David Schlemko stayed in the locker room after the first intermission with what team called an "ailment" and did not return. ... Left winger Paul Bissonette left two-plus minutes into the second after he was checked hard into the boards by Detroit right winger Jordin Tootoo and his head bounced off the glass. Tootoo was called for illegal check to the head. Bissonette later returned to the game. ... Howard entered the game with a 7-0-2 record against the Coyotes. ... Phoenix goaltender Mike Smith skated with the team Thursday morning, his first practice in more than a week. Smith, who has missed six straight games with an upper-body injury, could return to the lineup as soon as Saturday. ... Detroit right winger Mikael Samuelsson missed his second straight game with an upper-body injury. ... The Coyotes, who dealt veteran forwards Raffi Torres, Matthew Lombardi and Steve Sullivan in separate trade-deadline deals Wednesday, recalled Conner and center Chris Brown from Portland of the AHL.
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