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Morning Skate: Game 1

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This is the time of season that Johan Franzen likes to kick it into gear.
This is the time of season that Johan Franzen likes to kick it into gear.

The Detroit Red Wings will host the Phoenix Coyotes in the first round of the 2011 NHL Playoffs. Although it may seem to be the case, this is not a flashback.

The Coyotes come into Detroit with a final regular season record of 43-26-13 (99 pts, 3rd in Pacific Division). The Coyotes had a statistically worse season than last year, but can any season in which a team makes the playoffs really be that bad? The Coyotes rely heavily on defense and goaltending as their offense isn't nearly as high-powered as Detroit's. The Wings need to play solid defensively though because they can't afford to spot the Coyotes goals when they might have a very hard time scoring their own on Ilya Bryzgalov.

Five For Howling is your SB Nation Coyotes' site. Follow the jump for the rest of the preview.

  • Jimmy Howard will be your starter tonight (of course). Jimmy had a good regular season that was plagued by some bad games on both his part and the part of his teammates. The defense will need to be tighter around him because you can't afford a "few bad games" in the playoffs. I get the feeling that Jimmy might go into Tiberius mode in the playoffs because he seemed to be one of the few guys that has played with passion the entire year.
  • Henrik Zetterberg will be out for tonight's game and some reports indicate he may be out for at least the first three. Zetterberg has been a huge asset for the Red Wings this year and carried the team offensively while Pavel Datsyuk was out of the line-up. It's time for Datsyuk to step up and do that same for his Euro Twin brother. The way he fell to the ice after a hit by Bryan Allen in the Hurricanes game, it looked like an ankle sprain. The sooner he's healthier the better (obvious statement is obvious).
  • Niklas Kronwall is a post morning skate/pre-game skate decision to play. Honestly, I'm fine with any of the three (Kindl/Kronwall/Salei) taking the ice at this point. I think Kronwall is capable of getting back to where he once was defensively but everytime he gives us hope, he makes you regret having that hope. Kindl has played well lately and although Salei has struggled, he has also shown he's capable of being a solid/shutdown guy in the Wings' system. UPDATE: Kronwall is expected to go tonight. Not sure who he will replace yet (likely Kindl/Salei).
  • Like the caption says, this is the time of season that Johan Franzen likes to kick things into high gear. Since The Mule's five-goal game against the Ottawa Senators, he has tallied just two goals. If it's any consolation, he's added 12 assists. But for me, it's not a consolation. Mule needs to be putting pucks in nets and he needs to get on that pronto.
  • Mike Modano might have a little extra motivation during the playoffs. Mo recently stated that he's likely going to retire, no matter what happens in the playoffs. Let's hope that this serves as extra motivation for both him and the rest of the team. The Wings have done it before with a veteran that wanted to win the Cup and retire, let's see if they can make it happen again. UPDATE: Mike Modano is out tonight, according to Craig Custance.
  • Really look for Darren Helm to use his speed against the Coyotes. The Coyotes d-men aren't the fastest by any means and he can really create some scoring chances for himself and his linemates if he does use that speed.
  • How well is Justin Abdelkader playing coming into the playoffs? Abby has muscled his way to the second line and is playing really well in the offensive zone. He's going to the net, digging pucks out of corners and even passing well to set up scoring chances. I think he could make a big statement as far as his role with the team in the future.
  • The roles have reversed a bit as the Red Wings have home-ice this time around. Playing at home hasn't exactly been good for the Red Wings in the second half of the season, but you gotta think things will be a little bit different in the playoffs. JLA + playoffs=insane atmosphere.
  • As "duuuuuuh" as this sounds, the Red Wings need to have all four lines play consistently. The Coyotes offense is so well-spread that they rely on all of their players to score, not just the top line guys. I think you'll see the big body of Todd Bertuzzi out there against Shane Doan and Pavel Datsyuk out there against Radim Vrbata.
  • For discussion: are you growing a playoff beard?
  • Key to the game: Ilya Bryzgalov. Bryzgalov is really the key to the whole series I think because he is the one clear-cut advantage the Coyotes have over the Red Wings. The Red Wings were able to solve him last year in the playoffs but nothing guarantees they do it again. Bryzgalov is more than capable of carrying a team for a stretch of games and the Wings need to do everything in their power to prevent this from happening.
  • Match-up to watch: Pavel Datsyuk vs. Coyotes defense. Pavel has had some success in the past creating space for himself and dangling Coyotes out of their skates. If he creates that same space for himself, he could put on a clinic.
  • This series is going to be like a roller coaster. I know while I'm standing in line that I'll have fun, but there will also be points where I soil myself.
  • Your awesomeness picture for today:
    I got these in the mail from reader Josh Howard. The pictures don't do them justice, they're incredible in person. If you want to know more, drop a comment and I'm sure he'll gladly respond.