Category archive: Phoenix Coyotes

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Seventh games have their special place in NHL history.

Jimmy Howard remembers one in particular.

"When the Rangers beat the Devils [in the 1994 Eastern Conference finals], I was a huge Rangers fan growing up," the Red Wings' rookie goalie said Tuesday after the team's morning skate. "Who was it … Stephane Matteau who scored the goal? Five-hole on Marty [Brodeur], I think? That was probably my best Game 7."

Now Howard gets the chance to create his own Game 7 memories on the ice.

"I know; it's kind of surreal," he said. "Growing up, you dream of it, but you're never quite sure if it's going to come true or not, and here's my chance tonight."

Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said Howard has a chance to add to quite a season.

"I think if you're Jimmy Howard, you've got to be pretty ecstatic," Babcock said. "It's your first year in the NHL, you've won a starting job, you've been nominated for the Calder Trophy and now you get to play in a Game 7. I think it's fantastic. And the other thing about it is that you've got the team here. So for him, it's got to be a great feeling."

A Game 7 memory wasn't hard to find from Adrian Aucoin. The Phoenix Coyotes defenseman was a pup when he played in one early in his career.

"For me, it was when I came up for the first time," Aucoin said of being recalled by the Vancouver Canucks late in the 1994-95 season. "I wasn't playing in the playoffs because everybody was healthy, and then we had Game 7 against St. Louis [in the first round]. Jeff Brown had hurt his knee, so we dressed seven defensemen, including me. At about the 10-minute mark, I got my first shift, a power play, and I scored on my first shot five seconds into the power play. So it was quite memorable, and we went on to win. That was a huge memory for me."

Coyotes coach Dave Tippett has played and coached in a bunch of Game 7s.

"The year I coached in the minors in Houston, we won that year, and we went to Game 7 in every series," Tippett said. "Those games are exciting and ones you will remember for a long time. Our players are excited."

You want to talk Game 7? Babcock was in two of them just last spring.

"We've been through it just in the last two years. We beat Anaheim last year; we lost to Pittsburgh [also in 2009]," Babcock said. "For myself at the Olympics, we played seven games and won Game 7. They're all the same in that they're a thrill to be involved with. Now, would you like to win the series in four? Absolutely. But there's something about Game 7. There's a memory there, finding a way.

"You want to be a coach or a GM or a player or goaltender that gets it done, because that's part of sport. That's what you dream about when you're a kid, scoring the game-winning goal. That gives you something to think about this afternoon while you get a little rest."

Red Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom has played in seven Game 7s and knows the deal.

"You know what to expect, but it's still a game that's crucial for both teams," the Wings' captain said. "You have to be ready. So even if you've played in several or none at all, it's still a matter of being able to play under pressure."

As for preparation, you don't change a thing, Lidstrom said.

"The day is pretty much the same. You don't approach it any differently for any other game you play in the playoffs," he said. "It's an important game, but you still have to do your routine, do the same thing you usually do to get ready for a game."

Coyotes believe

Given their fairy-tale story this season, you can't blame the Coyotes for believing in their chances for Game 7.

"I just think the whole year has been a year of growth for us," Tippett said. "Every time you can add to that growth, it adds to the belief system. I think what's really worked for us is that everybody has been doubters of us all year, and our players recognize that. As they overcame hurdle after hurdle, it became almost like a chuckle in our room, a motivating factor for us.

"Everything that goes against us, we have used as a positive, and we have had some results from it."

From Shane Doan to Ed Jovanovski to Robert Lang, several veteran players have the Coyotes in the right frame of mind.

"Our leadership group is big in that room," Tippett said. "It's everybody all in together. That's one of the unique things about this group of players. I like the mindset of our guys. It goes back to the adversity all year and how they've handled it. It's not as if they are getting thrown into a situation of 'What do we do now?'"

The first goal

Babcock believes the team that scores first tonight will have an advantage.

"One of the things I've found is that scoring first in Game 7 seems to be a bigger deal in my experience, just because of the momentum on one side and the negative thoughts on the other side," he said. "The whole key is, just play the game, don't make it bigger than it is. Just play.

"You know, to use a baseball analogy, they call 'em 5 o'clock heroes and 7 o'clock bums, a guy that can deliver in batting practice, hit it over the wall at times, but when the game is on … That's not what we're looking for here. You want to be a person that delivers."

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Despite the two days off between games, Coyotes captain Shane Doan didn't make his return from an upper-body injury Friday night.

"He's right there," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said after the Game 5 loss. "It's one thing where he has the desire to go, but he has to be functional to go. You can't put a player in there that can't compete in the game, especially the way he plays. We'll continue to monitor that. He gets better every day. We'll see if he's ready to go next game."

The Wings' penalty kill

Detroit has now killed 19 of 22 Phoenix power plays in the series, a huge factor in the Red Wings leading 3-2.

Just a year ago, despite a trip to the Cup finals, the Wings struggled mightily on the PK. What's changed?

"Well, everything," Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "We were working toward this last year. [Assistant coach] Brad McCrimmon has done a good job."

Babcock also said spending some time last summer with New Jersey Devils coach Jacques Lemaire in preparations for the 2010 Canadian Olympic team gave him an opportunity to learn some PK tricks.

"We took everything Jacques did and introduced it," said Babcock. "Obviously, we've tweaked it."

Combine that with Jimmy Howard's goaltending, the emergence of Darren Helm and the offseason additions of Patrick Eaves and Drew Miller and -- voila! -- you've got yourself a better PK unit.

Jimmy's OK

After last Sunday's Game 3 loss, Red Wings fans were worried about Jimmy Howard. Since then he's allowed only one goal in two games and has looked ultra-confident. Babcock talked last Monday on the eve of Game 4 about the need for Howard to show he can bring it come playoff time.

"That's what players do, they bring it," Babcock said. "[Henrik] Zetterberg is a better player every year at playoff time. He just is, that's the facts. [Brad] Stuart is the same. As a goaltender, if you can be that guy that's good all the time but really good at playoff time, you obviously have a really happy team."

DETROIT -- One notable change Tuesday night was Daniel Cleary replacing Tomas Holmstrom on the Red Wings' top forward line with Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen.

"I change it every year at this time of year, so it doesn't make any difference," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said after Detroit's 3-0 win in Game 4. "From game to game, just whatever works. It was just one of those situations we didn't think they were playing with enough pace. Homer is a real battler and a net presence but doesn't skate as good as Cleary, so we changed them tonight. Who knows what we do for Game 5 with the matchups going their way."

No Doan, big difference

The Coyotes didn't muster much offense with captain Shane Doan out because of injury.

"Obviously missing Shane is a big part of our group, but we have to have people step in and do the job," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "There are areas [where] we need to do a better job. There were too many turnovers. I think our execution part can be a little bit better."

Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said Doan was a big loss for the visiting team.

"He's a big part of their team; he's their leader and their captain," Lidstrom said. "When he went out the other game, it didn't seem to bother their team, but I'm sure they're missing their leader on their team."

Red-hot Zetterberg

Wings star forward Henrik Zetterberg has five goals in the series.

"He's been playing real well," Lidstrom said. "I think he's just been getting better and better for us. He's strong on the puck, plays hard at both ends of the ice and he's out there late in games. He's killing penalties, and he's on the power play setting goals up. He's a big key to our team."

Babcock had sort of singled Zetterberg out Monday for long shifts, and the star responded.

"He's been real good at playoff time each and every year," Babcock said. "He seems to score at a higher rate, and obviously it's real important when your best players play well. I thought Pav [Datsyuk] had a real good night tonight. For us to be successful, those guys have to generate offense, no question about it."

Don't talk to Jimmy

Asked whether he had talked with rookie goalie Jimmy Howard to inspire his shutout Tuesday night, Babcock said no.

"I didn't talk to him. I haven't talked to him hardly all year except to say, 'Hey, how are you and where did you get your suit?' That's Jimmy V's job; he looks after all those guys. I mean, I talk to the kid, and once in a while I'll say, 'It's about the next stop,' but he knows that. He doesn't need to hear it from me."

DETROIT -- With an extra day off before Game 5 on Friday, it was wise in our mind for the Phoenix Coyotes to give captain Shane Doan the night off for Game 4.

"Hopefully, we'll get him back in Friday," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said Tuesday after his team's pregame skate at Joe Louis Arena.

Tippett ruled Doan (undisclosed injury) out for Tuesday night's Game 4, and the Coyotes captain went to Joe Louis Arena for treatment Tuesday morning. He did not skate or speak to the media. Doan was injured after crashing into the end boards Sunday, and he skated briefly before Monday's practice.

Tippett said forward Vernon Fiddler would replace Doan in the lineup after missing Game 3 with an upper-body injury.

Meanwhile, Wings blueliner Brian Rafalski didn't take part in his team's optional morning skate Tuesday, but coach Mike Babcock said the veteran would play in Game 4. "That's the plan," Babcock said.

Lilja back

Andreas Lilja wasn't sure he'd ever play hockey again, so to be back in the NHL playoffs at the best time of the year has been a blast for him. The Red Wings defenseman, 34, missed a year hockey with a serious concussion he suffered when Nashville's Shea Weber knocked him out in a fight on Feb. 28, 2009. Lilja finally returned March 1 this season.

"I feel great; I have no problems," Lilja said after Tuesday's pregame skate. "It is a lot of fun. I think I was more nervous last year sitting and watching. But we have to turn this around and get it going here."

He certainly doesn't take playing for granted now.

"I think about it sometimes, and it makes me even more excited to play," Lilja said. "It's important not to forget."

The Swedish product makes his living playing a rugged game and hasn't held back just because of his concussion scare.

"If I can't play physical, I might as well not be out there," Lilja said.

Datsyuk nominated

Two-time reigning Selke Trophy winner Pavel Datsyuk was nominated again for the NHL's best defensive forward award with Ryan Kesler and Jordan Staal. (We're a little surprised Jonathan Toews wasn't nominated.)

The award is voted on by members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association. Datsyuk led the NHL with 132 takeaways this season, with Kesler a distant second at 83.

"Pavel leads the league, I think, every year in steals," Babcock said. "I think he's an exceptional two-way player, and him winning these trophies tell you that. But Pavel's an elite player, period, and one of the best players in the world.

"I've had the opportunity to coach a lot of really good players, and to me, he has those instincts and those skills that allow him to be very successful. But there's lots of good players in the league that are very determined that way, and guys understand more and more that if you don't go both ways, your chances of winning at playoff time is pretty limited."

DETROIT -- Red Wings coach Mike Babcock was asked Monday whether rookie goalie Jimmy Howard's teammates had left him out to dry in Sunday's Game 2.

"I think it comes back to the same theme," Babcock said. "A big part of playing defense is not turning over the puck. Because when you don't turn over pucks, you have good defensive structure. When you turn over pucks, you don't have good defensive structure, and then your goaltender doesn't look as good. I just think we have to be better all over structurally."

Howard vowed to forget Sunday's game.

"Being a goalie, you have to have a short-term memory," Howard said Monday. "You have to go back out there and do your job. I just think they were untimely goals, that's what I think they were. Thirty seconds into the game, 30 seconds left in the second period, the fourth one after we sort of got the momentum back. Those were untimely goals. They're momentum shifters and backbreakers in the playoffs."

Keeping a positive frame of mind is the only way to move on.

"You can't dwell on the negative, because if you dwell on the negative, that's when you know thoughts start to creep into your mind and that's when your whole game, the floor comes out from underneath, and the next thing you know, you're in shambles," Howard said. "So you've got to remain positive and continue to push forward."

Where's Rafalski?

Veteran Red Wings defenseman Brian Rafalski was absent at practice Monday.

"He had a maintenance day today; he'll play tomorrow," Babcock said.

It didn't appear as though any lineup changes were in the cards for Game 4.

"Not at this point, no," the coach said. "But the good thing about being the coach is that you have the right to change your mind."

Frustration?

OK, here's a quote from a player Monday. Guess the name of the speaker:

"They've been doing a good job through the neutral zone, slowing us down and really clogging it up there. When we chip the puck, they're always a step ahead of forwards and doing a real good job in the neutral zone. We have to come with more speed, but having said that, you have to get that puck in on them as well."

Was that a player from the Chicago Blackhawks or Detroit Red Wings? They could just as easily have been talking about either the Nashville Predators or Phoenix Coyotes. But it was Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom talking about the Coyotes.

Babcock's take

I asked Babcock to explain to a reporter like me who arrived just in time for Game 4 why Detroit was losing in the series. And he delivered.

"The team that's turned over pucks and ended up chasing it hasn't done very good," Babcock said. "When you're chasing the puck, you get exhausted fast. When you come to the neutral zone, and you continually turn it over and then you got to back check, it's not a very fun activity. You'd rather play in the O-zone than check all night long. And I thought in the second and third periods, after we had the power plays in the second period and that ended around the 10-minute mark, well, we didn't do anything the rest of the night."

Message for Zetterberg

Babcock can't stand it when players take too long a shift. Henrik Zetterberg must have been guilty of that in Sunday's loss judging from the coach's comments Monday.

"You know, it was interesting," Babcock said. "At the end of the night, Z played 20 minutes and Pav [Pavel Datsyuk] played 16 and a half minutes, and they both played the same amount of shifts. Exactly the same amount of shifts. So, why is that? Just a question I had."