Arizona (15-9-3) at Detroit (16-9-1)

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By ALAN FERGUSON, STATS Writer Wednesday, Dec 7, 2011 Puck Drop: 7:30 pm EST Thu Dec 8, 2011

Phoenix Coyotes general manager Don Maloney said this month could prove the most demanding for his club this season. The Coyotes, though, have already appeared to find their groove despite a hectic schedule.

Their attempt for a season high-tying third straight win Thursday night comes against a Detroit Red Wings team that’s eliminated them from each of the past two postseasons.

Phoenix (15-9-3) is set to play 16 games in December, tied for the most in one month this season, and 10 of those will be away from home.

“December is the most difficult month of our season when you consider our travel schedule and the number of back-to-back games we play,” Maloney told the team’s official website.

Phoenix will play three times in four days in each of the next three weeks and three sets of back-to-back games this month after having only two in October and November.

After dropping their first two games in December, the Coyotes conquered the first of those back-to-backs earlier this week with a 4-3 shootout win in Chicago on Monday and a 3-2 victory in Nashville on Tuesday.

Keith Yandle(notes) helped his team improve to 9-4-1 away from home by scoring his second goal in as many games with 1:45 left Tuesday.

“On the road, we are finding ways to get points, and that’s what it’s all about,” coach Dave Tippett said.

The Coyotes couldn’t find a way to win at Joe Louis Arena during last season’s playoffs en route to a four-game sweep. Phoenix won two of three in Detroit during the 2010 postseason but was eliminated in seven games.

The Coyotes had trouble keeping the Red Wings (16-9-1) off the scoreboard during last season’s playoffs, allowing 18 goals in the four games.

This time, Phoenix will face a Detroit team that might be missing one of its key contributors. Valtteri Filppula(notes) has missed most of the past two games after getting cut on the leg during Sunday’s 4-2 loss in Colorado, which ended a season-high seven-game win streak.

With 21 points in 25 games, Filppula is on pace to shatter his career high of 40 set in 2008-09. He said he hoped to return to action Thursday but wasn’t sure if his leg would cooperate.

“I can’t say when it will be good enough, but I will give it a try every day,” Filppula told the Red Wings’ official website Tuesday. “It was pretty painful. I could cruise around a little bit, but when I skated a little faster I couldn’t really do it.”

Without Filppula, Detroit managed only two goals for the second straight game Tuesday, falling 3-2 in St. Louis. The Red Wings had scored 27 times during their win streak.

Detroit didn’t help itself with a season high-tying nine penalties, which led to two power-play goals for the Blues. The Red Wings gave up six goals in the 18 times they were short-handed to Phoenix in last season’s playoffs but prevailed with help from Pavel Datsyuk(notes).

The winger’s six points (two goals, four assists) were the most of any player in the series. He’s also been tough on the Coyotes during the regular season with 13 goals and 36 assists in the past 30 matchups.

Datsyuk has six goals and eight assists in his last 10 contests overall.

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