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"Desert Dogs' underdogs again

The Detroit Red Wings have their confidence back, and that's enough to make the Coyotes, who style themselves as "the Desert Dogs," underdogs in their own building.

The Red Wings have won the last two games to take a 3-2 lead in the playoff series.

A win today puts the Red Wings into the second round. If they lose, they still have the cushion of Game 7 on Tuesday in Detroit, where Phoenix was 0-2-1 during the season and 1-1 in the playoffs.

"I wouldn't say we're playing the best we have all season, but we're definitely on the up-curve," Detroit goalie Chris Osgood said. "We have to keep it going in that direction."

Osgood is an example of the turnaround the Red Wings have made since four players recovered from injuries since Game 3 Sunday. He allowed 13 goals in the first three games, but just three in the past two.

In front of Osgood, 11 Red Wings have scored goals. Phoenix has had goals from seven players.

"They have a lot of depth they can throw at you," Phoenix center Jeremy Roenick said. "They have creative lines, offensive lines, defensive lines and in-your-face lines. It's definitely a tough team to play."

Detroit has reached the second round every year since 1991 and has been to the final twice in the past three post-seasons. Detroit swept Philadelphia 4-0 last year to win its first Stanley Cup since 1955.

Phoenix's playoff history is a mirror opposite: As the Winnipeg Jets or the Coyotes, the franchise has made the second round twice in 12 tries, failing six times since 1987.

"We're not really thinking about St. Louis or Colorado or Dallas or those teams," said left wing Brendan Shanahan, one of the injured players who returned. "We're thinking about the Coyotes, but at the same time our goal is not just to win the first round; it's to go on."

The Jets pushed Detroit to six games in 1996, and the Red Wings remember the bruising series as a handicap that weakened them and led to their ouster by Colorado in the Western Conference final that year. Shanahan hopes his team doesn't get worn out again.

"The Coyotes have made it a very tough first round for us. We don't expect them to give up or lie down for us at all," he said.

But all is not well with the Coyotes. Team captain Keith Tkachuk, who has scored 142 goals the past three regular seasons, had two goals in Game 2, but only two assists in the next three games.

Roenick had two goals in each Coyotes victory, but has been similarly quiet during the two-game skid. Only Rick Tocchet, who has scored at least one goal in each game, has been consistent.

"I have to lead, but everybody's got to step it up, too," Tkachuk said.

Tocchet challenged his teammates after a 3-1 loss in Detroit on Thursday to make the sacrifice needed to compete.

Detroit captain Steve Yzerman declined to respond, saying he doesn't pay attention to talk during a series.

"If you're overaggressive, you're going to get pounded," Yzerman said. "We have to play in control and disciplined. But I expect them to play well Sunday. We've gotten stronger as the series went on, and we're going to have to play our best game at this point to win."

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