Morning Skate: It's a New Year

Well welcome to a new year--on the calendar at least--of hockey and hopefully 2009's woes are a thing of the past and 2010 will have some better fortunes and less injuries for the Red Wings. Detroit heads to Jobing.com Arena (really?) and will take on the Phoenix Coyotes. The Wings look to win their second straight and will need a solid effort tonight. Let's look at the storylines surrounding the game and some match-ups:

  • This is the first game of five game, mostly West Coast, road trip. Detroit heads to Phoenix tonight, Anaheim on Tuesday, the Kings on Thursday, the Sharks on Saturday, and closes out the trip against the Islanders the 12th. The Wings will face three very good teams that are in the race for the Pacific Division crown and two teams that are loaded with young talent.
  • During that road trip, there are a few players that are expected to return. In fact, we could see Henrik Zetterberg, Dan Cleary, and Niklas Kronwall all back by the time of the Islanders game. Unlikely that Kronwall will be back by then but we can dream right? Kronner has said that he is hoping for the 9th or 12th but whether or not he's cleared to play by training staff remains to be seen.  Zetterberg is eying the last part of the road trip and Cleary hopes to be back against Anaheim or LA. Could it be? Could we really have a good portion of our original line-up back by the end of the trip? Let's hope so.
  • Brad May is expected to miss tonight's game from an lower-body injury. As with the ambiguity surrounding the injury, it could be any number of things. But fear not, fellow Wings fans, Patrick Eaves will return from the flu problems he's been fighting and will likely be back on the Energy Line with Draper and Helm.
  • Last time these guys met was the night Jonathan Ericsson went down with a knee injury after a clean collision with Shane Doan.  Ericsson is still out of the line-up and the Wings have called up Doug Janik to fill his spot for the time being. The Wings lost Ericsson but won the game 3-2. Hopefully no injuries this time around.
  • Quick Central Division note: Blues have fired Andy Murray and promoted Davis Payne to interim head coach. 
  • When Phoenix took the ice last, it lost 3-2 in a SO to their division rivals the Sharks. Ilya Bryzgalov has allowed no more than 2 actual goals (won't count the skills competition ones) in his last five games. That's the type of goaltending you need in order to compete in that division.

    ::Check after the jump for the rest of the gameday story lines and some matchups to watch for::
  • Last year this would have been a lot easier game but the Phoenix Coyotees are a completely different team this time around. Phoenx is third in the Western Conference with 54 points (25-13-4) and boasts a very low number of goals against. In their last 10, the Coyotes are 6-2-2 with some big wins. The Coyotes are a hardworking team that has some great young talent that is learning the ropes and a defense that is physical and big.
  • Jimmy Howard is starting tonight for the Wings, his fifth straight. Howard's posted a solid effort and his 2-1-1 record in the previous four starts isn't all that bad considering. The regulation loss to the Blackhawks was a miserable game for the Wings and the best performance he's put in all year ended in an overtime 1-0 loss to Columbus. Howard is coming on strong and his play is helping the Wings find ways to win with a struggling offense.
  • Ilya Bryzgalov will likely start at the other end of the ice. This guy is a pure pleasure to watch play in net and in my humble opinion, is the most underrated and under-appreciated goalie in the league. Hopefully, he won't be all that stellar tonight but then again I wouldn't be surprised if he was. 
  • Ville Leino will receive no flack from me this time. He came through last game and played like he wanted to be out there for the first time in a while. He'll stay on the fourth line tonight with Abdelkader and will be joined by Maltby, who spent last game on the third lien but with Eaves returning he's back to fourth. If Leino plays like he did last game, he'll turn into the Ville everyone expected and had hoped for.
  • Valtteri Filppula's line is getting some great chances. It may not show up in the boxscore but he, Mattias Ritola, and Drew Miller are playing very well together. I've been particularly been impressed with how Ritola is handling things. He's putting shots on net and is often in the right place at the right time in the offensive zone to create chances for himself or his linemates. Looking forward to seeing how his future plays out.
  • Key matchup to watch when Red Wings are on the attack: The Energy Line. Draper-Helm-Eaves are a flat nightmare (not to be confused with Nightmare) for the other teams. Granted it doesn't have the scoring talent that a Bertuzzi-Datsyuk-Holmstrom line has but it has the thing teams hate the most: pressure to move the puck. These guys get after the puck and force passes probably often before the player wants to pass and this leads to some great chances for the Wings. Not to mention the incredible speed each player has, any loose puck is almost a sure bet to go to Detroit. 
  • Key matchup to watch when Coyotes are on the attack: Shane Doan and Matthew Lombardi. These guys are doing solid work and are the backbone of this Phoenix attack. They get to the pucks, fight in the corners, hustle all night long, and have the scoring touch to finish when presented with the opportunity. Watch to see how Lidstrom and Rafalski play these guys or if Brad Stuart's strength and puck play is called on. 
Five For Howling has all of your Coyotes information.
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