The Phoenix Coyotes probably felt more secure about a playoff berth prior to this season-worst five-game losing streak.
Getting back on track won’t be easy during a challenging three-game homestand that begins Saturday night against the Detroit Red Wings.
Phoenix (33-23-10) is mired in an 0-4-1 skid after falling 1-0 at Los Angeles on Thursday. The Kings have matched the Coyotes with 76 points in the crowded Western Conference race, which includes six other teams in close contention for five playoff spots.
“That was a very tight road game,” coach Dave Tippett said. “Unfortunately, it seemed like whoever was going to get the first goal was going to win that game.”
The Coyotes’ last three losses have all been by one goal. Phoenix’s penalty-kill unit has been atrocious during this losing streak, allowing 10 goals in 23 chances.
Its power play is 2 for 16 in the same span.
“We got to find ways to get a goal,” said captain Shane Doan(notes), who has not scored during the slide. “We had opportunities to win, but we couldn’t find ways to score. Right now every point is so huge that you have to find ways to get one to give yourself a chance.”
The Coyotes will return home, where they had won five straight before Tuesday’s 3-2 loss to Dallas. This homestand figures to be difficult with matchups against contenders Detroit (39-19-7), Vancouver and Calgary.
The Red Wings have a comfortable lead atop the Central Division, but still have motivation entering the finale of a five-game trip. They trail the NHL-leading Canucks by four points, and lead San Jose by three for the No. 2 seed.
Detroit had an opportunity to open up a bigger cushion over the Sharks, but fell 3-1 in San Jose on Thursday. The Red Wings also lost 2-1 in overtime at Anaheim on Wednesday.
“Anytime you play back-to-back nights, you know the other team is going to come out flying,” coach Mike Babcock said. “I thought we did a good job getting the power-play goal to come back and make it 1-1, but in the end it wasn’t enough.”
“The bottom line is we have to skate better than we did tonight as a group,” Babcock said. “Our big guys in particular have to skate better, but they played hard minutes (Wednesday).”
Detroit, which hasn’t dropped three in a row since Dec. 4-8, has scored on the power play in six straight games, going 7 for 26.
The Red Wings have won two of three meetings with the Coyotes this season, but those came between Oct. 16-Nov. 8. Jimmy Howard(notes) is 4-0-1 with a 2.14 goals-against average in five career regular-season meetings with Phoenix.
Detroit has won its last four on the road against Phoenix, including three games in last year’s playoffs.