In a crucial game, the Red Wings determined to set the tone and pace against the Coyotes on Monday.

Early and continually against Phoenix, Detroit skated fast and hit often and hard, led by Justin Abdelkader.

It was a key to the 4-0 victory.

The Red Wings opponent tonight, the Kings, used a similar style to win the Stanley Cup 10 months ago, and some observers say size and physicality is the new way to win the Cup.

In the absence of the traded Brad Stuart, who led the team in hits in three of the past four seasons, and the injured Darren Helm, Abdelkader's body-checking is significant.

He was credited with six hits Monday. It was more like 10.

This season, Abdelkader leads the Red Wings with 115 hits through 45 games, good for 27th in the NHL.

If he finishes in the top 30, he would be the first of the Red Wings player to rank that high since Stuart and Helm finished 17th and 27th, respectively, three seasons ago.

Abdelkader also starred in the enforcer's role Monday.

Shane Doan harassed Jimmy Howard early, slapping at the goaltender with his stick 16 minutes into the first period when Howard stopped and froze a shot.

Howard immediately complained to a referee, who then talked to Doan. Doan nodded.

By the third period, after a few altercations and lots of less-than-cordial conversations, Abdelkader dropped the gloves with the big captain, and took two minutes for roughing; Doan received four.

Other leaders in hits for the Red Wings, according to the NHL scorer's sheet, were Pavel Datsyuk and Kyle Quincey, with three.