Five things to watch: Doan on a mission; Flames to catch a break?

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By Garrett Perry, Nicholas Carafa and Curtis Ng

O captain! My captain!
The Coyotes march into Cowtown tonight for a visit with the Flames as part of their three-game Western Canadian road trip. Coming off a 6-2 win in Edmonton last night, Shane Doan and Co. will look to add to the Flames’ miseries in the second of back-to-back games.

Through 26 games, Doan has 12 goals, just one off his mark from last season. The Desert Dogs’ 37-year-old captain is also tied with Martin Hanzal for second in points on the team with 22, behind only Radim Vrbata.

Doan had a goal and an assist against the Oilers and with the state of Calgary’s goaltending, all signs point to Doan continuing the Yotes’ scoring brigade.

Still No. 1, but for how long?
Jimmy Howard entered 2013-14 as the undisputed starter for the Red Wings. In 2012-13, he had a .923 save percentage and a 2.13 goals-against average, but those numbers have deteriorated to .913 and 2.57 in 19 games this season. His record is also middling at just 6-7-6.

He has slipped so far, in fact, that he’s fighting with backup Jonas Gustavsson for playing time. ‘The Monster’ has been getting very little attention, but he’s quietly put together a 7-0-1 record to go along with a .929 SP and a 2.16 GAA.

Howard injured his left hand in mid-October, which gave Gustavsson an opportunity to get used to having the net. He ended up starting three straight and winning all three, allowing just five goals.

Howard is starting tonight against the Philadelphia Flyers and needs a good game or risks losing more starts to his backup.

Not their cup of Joe
The Detroit Red Wings’ struggles continue. In fact, they’ve gone just 2-3-6 in their past 11 games at Joe Louis Arena.

If you think that’s bad news, you clearly haven’t seen the Philadelphia Flyers’ record at the Joe over the past 14 years. Since Nov. 1, 1989, the Flyers have visited Hockeytown 19 times, winning only once and tying twice. That record doesn’t include the two losses they suffered during the 1997 Stanley Cup final.

No one says winning is easy, but when you won’t have to face the likes of Pavel Datysuk (concussion), Henrik Zetterberg (herniated disc) and Todd Bertuzzi (shoulder), the scales could be leaning in the Flyers’ favor heading into tonight.

All aboard! Next stop: Sochi
It’s full steam ahead for Olympic hopefuls Carey Price and P.K. Subban as their Montreal Canadiens chug into New Jersey for Part II of a home-and-home against the Devils. The two key contributors led the Canadiens to a 3-2 victory over the Devils Monday.

Price has allowed two goals or fewer in eight straight games, while his 2.00 GAA and .937 SP place him among the best in the league. At the other end of the rink, Subban has been causing goaltenders fits. His 24 points are good for third in the league among blueliners.

Both have been turning heads and making impressions early this season, something that will only help their chances for Sochi selection. Call it bias, but if coach Michel Therrien had it his way, both would be taking part in the tournament.

Captain showing marked improvement
Mark Giordano broke his ankle in a game against the Kings Oct. 21 and was supposed to miss six to eight weeks. It’s been a little more than six since then and the Flames captain could return as early as tonight against the Coyotes. He’s practiced with the team a couple times already and will be re-evaluated after the morning skate. In the 18 games he’s missed, the Flames have gone 5-11-2.

Calgary is also missing Dennis Wideman (fractured hand), who isn’t likely to return until the New Year, not to mention Sean Monahan (broken foot), Curtis Glencross (knee) and T.J. Galiardi (back).

In addition to injuries, goaltending has been another huge factor in the team’s poor performance this season. Joey MacDonald’s 3.17 GAA is tops on the team while Karri Ramo’s .890 SP is best. Reto Berra, who has started more games than the others, is in over his head. Each goalie has just three wins.

Giordano’s return tonight could be galvanizing or it could just be a silver lining.