(Sports Network) - Though their recent trip out west didn't end on a high note, the Detroit Red Wings have plenty to feel good about as they return home to begin a season-long homestand this evening against the Phoenix Coyotes at Joe Louis Arena.
After picking up victories in Calgary and Edmonton last week, Detroit suffered a 6-4 setback in Vancouver on Saturday. Still, it was only the Red Wings' second loss in eight games and the club has pulled within three points of the first-place Blues in the Central Division.
Niklas Kronwall scored one of his two goals in the game in the second period on Saturday and Dan Cleary and Jonathan Ericsson also tallied in the frame as the Red Wings were tied with the Canucks heading into the third.
However, after limiting Vancouver to just 11 shots through the first two periods, Detroit allowed 23 in the final 20 minutes and was short-handed four times, yielding three tallies in the period.
"We had limited them to very little for two periods. We took three penalties in the third," said Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock. "We gifted a couple goals here tonight. They pushed us in the third."
Jimmy Howard allowed all six goals on 34 shots to suffered his first regulation loss in the regular season since March 9. He had been 19-0-3 in his previous 22 outings, including 6-0-1 this season.
Detroit begins a six-game homestand tonight and is 4-1-1 in Motown this year. That lone regulation loss came versus the Coyotes on Oct. 28, just 12 days after Howard had helped backstop Detroit to a 2-1 overtime win at Phoenix.
Howard is 3-0-1 with a 2.18 goals-against average versus the Coyotes.
Detroit forward Pavel Datsyuk has a goal and an assist in the two meetings this year to give him a point in 21 of his last 22 regular-season games versus Phoenix. Datsyuk has totaled 10 goals and 30 assists in that span and also has four goals and seven helpers over a current eight-game point streak.
Red Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom also has a point in eight straight games, notching a goal and 10 assists in that span.
Lidstrom's fellow blueliner Brian Rafalski will make his return to the lineup tonight after being sidelined since October 9 with a knee injury that required arthroscopic surgery. The Michigan native has registered two assists and a plus-five rating in two games this season.
Detroit has won 14 of its last 18 versus Phoenix -- not including last season's opening-round playoff matchup won by the Wings in seven games -- and has taken seven of the last nine played at Joe Louis Arena in this series. These two clubs won't meet for the fourth and final time this regular season until March 5.
The Coyotes will visit the Red Wings without captain Shane Doan, who is week- to-week with an upper-body injury suffered versus the Stars on Friday. Doan missed three games earlier this year due to a suspension stemming from a hit versus Anaheim on Oct. 17.
Without Doan on Saturday, Phoenix dropped a 4-3 shootout to Pittsburgh. It was the Coyotes' third loss in four games and they are 2-3-3 over their last eight.
Wojtek Wolski had his first goal of the season and also posted an assist, while Radim Vrbata and Eric Belanger scored. Ilya Bryzgalov had 33 saves in regulation and overtime.
"I thought we competed hard and did some good things out there," said Phoenix head coach Dave Tippett. "We've gotta keep pounding away. You don't always get rewarded for it, but hard work eventually pays off."
Defenseman Ed Jovanovski, who had his first career hat trick versus Nashville last Wednesday, also missed Saturday's game due to flu-like symptoms and is questionable for tonight.
Bryzgalov has been in net for both games against Detroit this year, stopping 74-of-78 shots faced.