The Malik Report
by George Malik on 03/05/11 at 08:00 PM ET
As the Detroit Red Wings prepare to face off against the Phoenix Coyotes tonight at 8 PM EST (FSD/FS Arizona/WXYT), the Wings at least breathed a sigh of relief regarding Brian Rafalski’s sore back, as the Free Press’s Helene St. James reports...
An MRI done on Brian Rafalski’s back showed no damage, general manager Ken Holland said. Rafalski went home Thursday and underwent tests Friday. He has been out since last Saturday because of back spasms, but Holland said doctors just recommended Rafalski get more rest, and take it on a day-by-day basis.
And Chris Osgood left the Wings to deal with a health issue of a different kind…
Chris Osgood flew home Friday to be with his expectant wife.
As for the Wings’ lineup, both St. James and MLive’s Ansar Khan report that Wings coach Mike Babcock has shaken up his lines once again in an attempt, as Babcock told Khan, to get several players on track offensively:
“We’re just trying to go,’’ Babcock said. “It was a great day off for us yesterday. We needed a day off badly. We’ve had a stretch here on the road with seven of nine, we had nine games in 15 nights. It was a grind for us. I believe yesterday freshened us all up. So we’ll see what happens here tonight with our lines.’‘
Here are the lines they skated with:
Khan anticipates the Wings will use their usual defensive parings in Lidstrom-Stuart, Ericsson-Kronwall and Kindl-Salei, with Jimmy Howard starting opposite Ilya Bryzgalov. He believes that the Coyotes will dress the following lines:
Ray Whitney-Eric Belanger-Shane Doan
Mikkel Boedker-Kyle Turris-Radim Vrbata
Taylor Pyatt-Vernon Fiddler-Lee Stempniak
Paul Bissonnette-Andrew Ebbett-Lauri Korpikoski
Keith Yandle-Derek Morris
Rostislav Klesla-Michal Rozsival
David Schlemko-Adrian Aucoin
Ilya Bryzgalov (starting)
On the Coyotes’ side of the equation, PhoenixCoyotes.com’s Dave Vest posited the following game-day update:
Tonight’s game will be the fourth and final game between the Coyotes and Red Wings this season. Phoenix has earned four of a possible six points in the season series (1-0-2). The teams last played Nov. 8 at Joe Louis Arena. Ilya Bryzgalov is expected to start in goal for the Coyotes. Bryzgalov is 1-0-2 vs. Detroit this season with a 2.26 goals-against average and a .941 save percentage.
Phoenix’s last three losses have all been by one goal. Poor play on special teams has fueled the team’s slump, which started after an eight-game winning streak. The Coyotes have allowed 10 power-play goals in the past five games and are just 2 for 16 with a man-advantage in the same span.
The Coyotes are hoping center Martin Hanzal is healthy enough to return to the lineup after he missed Thursday’s game because of a lower-body injury. Hanzal didn’t practice Friday.
“They’re always recognized for the high skill they have, but they’re one of the hardest-working teams in the league,” Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said. “If you’re not willing to work going into it, you’re going to be behind, so that will be our focus.”
And the Coyotes’ website posted an audio clip of coach Dave Tippett’s presser from Friday.
Update: NHL.com’s Corey Masisak stated the obvious regarding tonight’s game:
First-round preview, part two? Phoenix has yet to win a playoff series since moving to the desert, but the Coyotes pushed the two-time defending conference champs, Detroit, to a seven games in the first round last season. These two clubs would meet again in the first round if they were to finish in their current positions.
The Coyotes have dropped five straight contests, including four in a row to teams between fourth and 12th place in the West. The schedule is not getting any easier with a pair of games against both Vancouver and red-hot Calgary in the immediate future.
Update 8 PM: Good news from Ted Kulfan:
No Brian Rafalski again tonight against the Phoenix Coyotes.
Rafalski will miss his fifth consecutive game - this entire road trip - as his back spasms continue to act up.
General manager Ken Holland said tests have shown nothing serious in nature, and there’s only one source of therapy that doctors have recommended.
“Rest,” Holland said.
Rafalski, said Holland, continues to be day to day, as for a possible return.
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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.