There's no panic in Hockeytown -- but concern is starting to waft through the air at Joe Louis Arena.
The Detroit Red Wings, picked by most to dispose of the Phoenix Coyotes relatively easy, are down 2-1 in their first-round series and facing what winger Dan Cleary called "a must win" in Game 4 on Tuesday.
For this franchise, those are normally reserved for late May.
"I think they've been the better team in two of the games," Wings coach Mike Babcock said dryly after practice on Monday.
"I don't think we can be disappointed in the results so far. We can be disappointed in our execution and we can be disappointed in our battle level in spots, but not in the results so far. It's been fair. So that's a clear statement to us: We got to better. We understand that totally. We're not making any excuses for ourselves. We got to be better and we understand that totally."
Sunday's Game 3, a 4-2 Coyotes win, was a microcosm of what's gone wrong for Detroit in this series so far. Jimmy Howard was shaky in goal and Phoenix generated more shots on goal, got timely goals and often outworked their more high-profile opponent.
That hasn't gone unnoticed by Babcock.
"The biggest issue in my mind for our team is you got to look at the guy right across from you and say, 'I'm going to outwork you,'" Babcock said. "I mean, it doesn't matter how much skill you have. You got to compete harder than the other guy. They won that in the second half of last night's game."
On the Coyotes side of things, captain Shane Doan skated briefly before the rest of his team at practice but remains day-to-day with an undisclosed injury suffered in the second period of Game 3. Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said a decision would be made on whether or not he'll play in Game 4 on Tuesday morning.
Checking line stalwart Vernon Fiddler, who missed Game 3 with an upper body injury, will also be back in the Coyotes lineup.
A few more quotes from some of the Red Wings as they gear up for Game 4:
Dan Cleary: "They work hard, they have a good system where everybody is buying in. At certain points of the game, it doesn't come down to skill, it's a matter of outworking the other guy or getting better position. We just have to bring more to the table. We have to be better. Tomorrow is a must win for us."
Jimmy Howard: "How does this team not panic? Well you just take a look around the dressing room -- we've got great leadership, we've got guys that have been here before in this situation. We sort of follow their demeanour and they're still calm and collected so we just sort of feed off of it."
Niklas Kronwall: "I thought in Game 2, over the 60 minutes we were the better team. We outworked them and that's why we won. The other two games that hasn't been the case. We have to find a way to have those longer stretches in time where we keep going after them, keep going after them, and getting the pucks deep and keep working them down low. We're losing too many battles down there, losing the pucks too easy. We're giving up too easy goals, giving them a few here and there, you can't do that. Phoenix is a hell of a team, they did a great job in the regular season and they keep doing it in the postseason."
Nicklas Lidstrom: "They're doing a good job of slowing us down or keeping us on one side of the rink or one corner of the rink and making it hard on us. You have to give them a lot of credit for how they're playing against us."
Todd Bertuzzi: "Guys know what to do here. We're not young little kids any more. I think we're all guys who have been around and know the situation and know how important this game is before we go back to Phoenix. I think everyone figures that out and you will see a different team tomorrow."Report Typo/Error