Detroit (3-3-1) at Arizona (5-2-0)

Fair Currently: Glendale, AZ
Temp: 78° F
  • Game info: 10:00 pm EDT Thu Oct 22, 2009
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The Detroit Red Wings are off to a relatively slow start, but it’s not entirely surprising considering the injuries to stars Pavel Datsyuk(notes) and Johan Franzen(notes).

The Phoenix Coyotes’ excellent beginning, on the other hand, can only qualify as shocking.

Phoenix looks to win a fourth straight game for the first time in nearly two years Thursday night against the visiting Red Wings, who should have Datsyuk back as they seek their first road victory.

Detroit (3-3-1) has hardly looked like the team that was a bounce or two away from winning a second consecutive Stanley Cup last spring, but a pair of injuries have played a role in their unimpressive start. Franzen tore the ACL in his left knee in an Oct. 8 win over Chicago, leaving him out four months, and Datsyuk has missed the team’s past two games due to an upper-body injury.

Datsyuk is expected to return Thursday, but he may have a difficult time scoring his first goal since Game 2 of the Red Wings’ Western Conference quarterfinal series against Columbus. Phoenix (5-2-0) has been the league’s stingiest team in the early going, yielding 10 goals in seven games and holding opponents to one goal in their last 21 power-play opportunities.

Defensemen Ed Jovanovski(notes) and Keith Yandle(notes) scored with the man advantage for the Coyotes on Saturday in a 4-1 home win over Boston.

“It was probably as close to a complete game that we’ve had all year,” said Jovanovski, tied with Radim Vrbata(notes) for the team lead with three goals. “We pounced on them early with the power play and it kept rolling on.”

A victory over the Red Wings would give Phoenix its first four-game win streak since winning five in a row from Dec. 31, 2007-Jan. 8, 2008. The Coyotes’ best start since going 6-1-0 to open the 2000-01 season has put a tumultuous offseason—featuring coach Wayne Gretzky resigning and a rumored move out of Phoenix—in the rear-view mirror.

“We’ve earned the record we have. It’s not a fluke,” said center Shane Doan(notes), the team’s leading scorer in each of the past five seasons. “We still have lots of areas where we can improve, but our goaltending has been phenomenal.”

The Coyotes went 1-1-2 against Detroit in 2008-09 - Jovanovski had two goals and four assists - after losing eight straight in the series over the two previous seasons.

While Phoenix’s Ilya Bryzgalov(notes) has been excellent in goal - his 1.14 goals-against average leads the league - the Red Wings can hardly say the same about Chris Osgood(notes). The veteran is 3-2-1 with a 3.21 GAA after giving up three third-period goals Saturday against Colorado, turning a 2-0 lead after two periods into a 4-3 shootout loss.

“It’s disappointing having a 2-0 lead and 3-2 toward the end of the game,” six-time Norris Trophy winner Nicklas Lidstrom(notes) said. “We played a solid game. We had some breakdowns, especially on a couple of goals.

“Disappointing to lose the way we did.”

Osgood is 5-0-0 with a 2.76 GAA in five games against Phoenix over the past two seasons.

If Datsyuk returns, he’ll likely be back on Detroit’s top line with Henrik Zetterberg(notes) and Tomas Holmstrom(notes), who currently leads the team with four goals.

Datsyuk and Zetterberg have been the duo that’s tormented Phoenix over the past three seasons, though. Datsyuk has five goals and 23 assists in 12 games while Zetterberg has 11 goals and 10 assists in 11 games.

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Thursday, Oct 22