Time: 7:30 PM EST
Place: Little Caesars Arena
TV: ESPN+, Hulu
Radio: WXYT-97.1 FM
Coyotes Blog: Five For Howling
After what has been a difficult schedule of late for the Red Wings, facing some of the league’s top teams, it will be a welcome change of pace to host the Arizona Coyotes tonight at Little Caesars. But while Arizona is battling the likes of Montreal and Seattle for the league’s basement, the Coyotes have found a way to win four of their last six games including the previous two.
Detroit could be looking at one of their biggest roster shakeups of the season tonight. Tyler Bertuzzi looks set to return to the top line with Larkin and Raymond to hopefully re-establish a dominant line for the team. But the big news is Vrana appears poised to make his season debut today, pending activation from injured reserve this afternoon. The move is anticipated based on his practicing with Suter and Fabbri on the second line. Vrana will be a welcome sight for many fans, even if it takes him a little time to regain his form after a such a lengthy injury.
The other roster move triggering Vrana’s return is Yzerman assigning long-time Red Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser to the waiver wire. While it’s doubtful he gets claimed this afternoon, the move signals the beginning of the end of a lengthy tenure with the Red Wings for the Western Michigan alumni. He has amassed 531 games over 10 seasons with the team and was burdened with carrying the load on the backend as the defensive ranks thinned out during the down years for the team.
The roster shuffle of the forwards created a fourth line of Veleno between Zadina and Gagner. That is certainly the most intriguing fourth line Detroit has had in perhaps several years. Veleno and Zadina have worked well together in a brief stint the past couple of weeks, and Gagner could add a solid veteran mix to the two.
Defensive pairings in practice appeared to indicated Lindstrom will once again be scratched, with an Oesterle and Stecher pairing getting another look. New waiver wire addition Olli Juolevi made it to practice but didn’t seem set to make his Red Wings debut quite yet. He may need to wait for either upcoming trades opening a spot or a lineup shakeup after a tough game. The former top pick hasn’t panned out thus far in career but he’s a worthwhile toss of the dice at no cost for the Red Wings to see if they can make something of him.
The obvious man to keep an eye on for the Coyotes is Nick Schmaltz who is coming off a 2 goal, 5 assist performance against the Senators on Saturday in an 8-5 win. But aside from his hot hand, Clayton Keller leads the team with 51 points in 55 games. Nobody else on the team has more than 35 points. Phil Kessel while registering 34 points, only has 6 goals this season. Speaking of scoring, the Coyotes only have 5 skaters that have registered at least 10 goals, with Keller leading the team with 23 goals.
In goal, Alex Nedeljkovic seems poised to get another start after coming in to relieve Greiss on Saturday against Florida. Nedeljkovic played well stopping 15 of 16 shots after entering the game. The young netminder could be returning to form from earlier in the season after 3 consecutive good showings against some of the league’s best teams. For the Coyotes, the expected starter is Karel Vejmelka who sports a 3.42 GAA and .903 SV% this season, to go with a -5.5 GSAA, on a porous Coyotes squad.