Red Wings try to strengthen playoff push vs. Coyotes

The Detroit Red Wings aim to keep pace in a very tight Western Conference as they visit a Phoenix Coyotes club on Thursday night that was very active before the trade deadline.

The Red Wings have won six of their past nine games and sit seventh overall in the Western Conference with 41 points. However, they are just three back of fourth place and will try to close that gap a bit tonight.

Detroit rebounded on Monday with a 3-2 victory over the Colorado Avalanche one day after getting routed 7-1 at home by the Chicago Blackhawks for a second loss in a row.

Justin Abdelkader, Daniel Cleary and Damien Brunner each had a goal for Detroit against the Avs, with Brunner snapping a 15-game goal drought to give his club a 3-0 lead midway through the second period. Colorado did score twice in the third to make things interesting, but the Red Wings held on despite captain Henrik Zetterberg missing a second straight game with a groin injury.

Pulled against the Blackhawks, Jimmy Howard finished with 22 saves Monday.

"We needed this after what happened yesterday," said Detroit head coach Mike Babcock. "We didn't feel very good after that and the guys really responded well tonight."

Zetterberg is questionable to return tonight, while Brunner is day-to-day after missing practice on Wednesday with a lower body injury.

The Coyotes come in 12th overall in the Western Conference and three points back of the final playoff spot.

Though Phoenix kept its main core intact, it did deal away forwards Steve Sullivan, Raffi Torres and Matthew Lombardi in three separate trades on Wednesday.

Sullivan went to the New Jersey Devils for a seventh-round pick in the 2014 draft, Torres moves on to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a 2013 third- round pick and Lombardi was swapped to the Anaheim Ducks for 23-year-old Brandon McMillan.

"You're losing three players off our roster. Having said that, the core of our team is still intact," said Coyotes assistant general manager Brad Treliving.

"In all honesty this is not surrendering a white flag. This is doing what we have to do from a management level to maximize the assets that we need to maximize moving forward and give an opportunity to people we think are deserving. We've got 12 games left and I know our core group is going to push forward and try to attain that playoff spot."

That push includes a 3-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday. Lombardi netted the game-winner and Keith Yandle scored twice as the Coyotes won for just the second time in 10 games (2-5-3).

"The only way you're going to have a chance is if you win, to get two points," Phoenix head coach Dave Tippett said of his team's playoff chances.

Making a fifth start in a row in place of the injured Mike Smith, Jason LaBarbera made 39 saves in a brilliant effort, giving Phoenix a win in the opener of a three-game homestand.

The Coyotes will try to win two straight for the first time since March 9-12, but have lost four of their past five overall versus the Red Wings.

Detroit is 4-1-1 in its last six at Phoenix.