Howard-less Red Wings aim for win in Phoenix

Not having their starting goaltender over the weekend did little to help Detroit shake off its road issues. However, a trip to Phoenix just might do the trick.

The Red Wings look to record a sweep of their season series with the Coyotes, but must do so once again tonight without All-Star Jimmy Howard in net.

The NHL leader with 32 wins, Howard suffered a broken finger versus the Canucks on Thursday that was expected to sideline the netminder for at least the rest of Detroit's five-game road trip. The Red Wings conclude the swing tonight before a meeting with the Oilers on Wednesday at home, where Detroit has won a club-record 17 straight.

Detroit, though, dipped to 2-1-1 on its swing and 15-14-1 as the guest this year with Saturday's 5-4 shootout loss to Edmonton. Ty Conklin got the start in Howard's absence, but was replaced by the recently-recalled Joey MacDonald at the start of the second after allowing three goals on nine shots.

MacDonald stopped 22-of-23 shots faced the rest of the way, but yielded two goals in the shootout.

The Red Wings trailed 3-1 at the end of the first, getting a short-handed goal from Valtteri Filppula, but netted three straight goals in the third. Todd Bertuzzi had two of them to give him 301 goals in his career, but Edmonton tied the game with 39 ticks left in regulation.

"If anything, we should feel good we got the one point," Bertuzzi said. "We didn't play very well in the first period. In the second we got a little better and obviously turned it on in the third period, but we still wanted the two points. We gave ourselves a good chance to do it, just came up a little short."

Detroit's two-game win streak came to an end with only its second loss in 11 games. It still sits on top of the NHL standings with 72 points, one more than the East-leading New York Rangers.

The Red Wings have taken their first three meetings with the Coyotes this season by a 11-6 margin, winning the past two encounters in a shootout. Five of the past seven meetings between these clubs have gone past regulation, with Detroit winning four of those.

Phoenix will try to keep the game just 60 minutes long this evening as it tries to avoid its first series sweep versus Detroit since 2007-08. Howard had been in net for the three previous encounters for the Red Wings, who are 10-1-2 in their last 13 trips to the desert.

The Coyotes conclude a season-long six-game homestand with this meeting and improved to 2-2-1 on the stand with Saturday's 5-3 win over the Sharks. That victory has Phoenix tied for 11th in the Western Conference, four points back of a playoff spot.

Mike Smith made 32 saves, but did yield a score with 32 seconds left in the game to make it a one-goal contest. However, Radim Vrbata accounted for the final margin with an empty-net tally as the Coyotes bounced back from last Tuesday's 4-1 loss to the Ducks with their third victory in 10 games (3-4-3).

"I thought we competed hard and did some things better than the other night," Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett said. "We got a couple of good bounces that went our way and we were able to use that as a confidence builder and find a way to get a win."

Vrbata and Martin Hanzal finished with a goal and an assist each, while Lauri Korpikoski netted a pair of goals. Ray Whitney was one of three Phoenix skaters to notch two assists and has six points over his past four games.

Whitney is slated to skate in the 1,200th game of his career this evening.

Smith, meanwhile, set a new career high with his 19th win of the season on Saturday. In his first campaign with the Coyotes, the 29-year-old is just two appearances shy of the personal-best 42 games he played in with the Lightning in 2009-10.