A key battle in the Western Conference playoff race is on tap Monday in the Motor City, as the Detroit Red Wings host the Phoenix Coyotes at Joe Louis Arena.
The Red Wings enter Monday three points behind Columbus and Minnesota for the final two playoff spots in the West, while the Coyotes are two in back of Detroit. The Red Wings and Coyotes both have two games in hand over the Blue Jackets and have played one fewer game than the Wild.
Detroit has qualified for the playoffs in 21 straight seasons, giving the club the longest active streak in any of the four major North American sports leagues. The last time the Red Wings failed to make the postseason was in 1990.
The Red Wings have lost two straight and five of their last six games, but they have a 1-2-3 record during that stretch thanks to three shootout losses. Detroit lost in shootout in its most recent outing, dropping as 2-1 decision in Vancouver.
After losing in regulation to Calgary on Wednesday, the Red Wings dropped the finale of a four-game road trip on Saturday following Maxim Lapierre's winner in the third round of the shootout.
Lapierre stickhandled his way down low and lifted a backhand over Jimmy Howard and Cory Schneider made a save on Damien Brunner's shot to preserve the win. The victory officially clinched a playoff spot for the Canucks.
Cory Emmerton scored the only goal for Detroit, while Howard made 13 saves in the loss.
"I thought our team had good process, played hard and spent a lot of time in their zone and did good things, but we weren't rewarded with a second point," Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock said.
Monday's test marks the start of a three-game homestand for the Red Wings, who will close their regular season Saturday in Dallas. Detroit is 10-7-4 as the host this season, but has lost two straight and five of its last six in Motown.
Phoenix has claimed two of the last three meetings against the Red Wings, but Detroit has taken four of six overall. The Coyotes also have dropped three in a row and 10 of their last 12 at Joe Louis Arena.
The Coyotes, who are capping a three-game road trip tonight, picked up their first win in four games on Saturday, edging the Chicago Blackhawks in a 3-2 shootout decision. Phoenix had lost three straight (0-1-2) before beating the NHL-leading Blackhawks.
David Schlemko scored the winner in the shootout to help keep the Coyotes' playoff hopes alive. In the final attempt, Schlemko skated down the middle and cut to the left before wristing the puck past Corey Crawford to give the Coyotes the win.
Rostislav Klesla and Radim Vrbata both scored for the Coyotes, while Mike Smith made 36 saves in the win.
"If we want to get into the playoffs we have to win every game and this was a big one for us," said Smith. "It's do-or-die right now and we have to do everything we can to win."
Phoenix is just 6-9-7 on the road this season compared to a 13-8-1 record at home. The Coyotes will play their next two games on home ice against San Jose and Colorado before closing the regular season Saturday at Anaheim.