It’s an overused cliché, but tonight is easily the biggest game of the season for the Minnesota Wild. With two-straight losses, the Wild travels to Phoenix take on the Coyotes, only one point back in the Western Conference Wild Card race.
This contest marks the third and final time Minnesota and the Coyotes will meet. The teams have split the season series, the Wild lost the first meeting 3-1 at Xcel Energy Center on Nov. 27 and won the second 4-1 at Jobing.com Arena on Jan. 9.
Tonight, the Wild will move things around up front. It looks like Mikko Koivu will center Zach Parise and Charlie Coyle. At the morning skate, Mikael Granlund was between Nino Niederreiter and Jason Pominville. On the third line, Kyle Brodziak skated between Justin Fontaine and Matt Moulson. Erik Haula skated with Stephane Veilleux and Matt Cooke.
Ilya Bryzgalov will get the nod between the pipes tonight. He is 9-3-1 with a 2.20 goals-against average and .921 save percentage in 14 starts against the Coyotes. With the Wild this season, he's posted a 2-0-2 record in four starts and five appearances. He also has a 2.45 GAA and a .900 SV% with one shutout.
Coyle made his National Hockey League debut last season in Phoenix on Feb. 4, 2013. Tonight, he’s set to skate in his 100th NHL game Saturday against the Coyotes. Coyle is on a four-game point streak (3-1=4) that is tied for his career best.
Despite only winning one of the team’s last three games, the Wild has allowed only 59 shots on goal in those contests. However, in the recent stretch, Minnesota’s bugaboo has been the special teams. The Wild has given up four power play goals, killing only five of nine opponent chances. Meanwhile, the team has scored one power play goal in nine chances.
Phoenix earned a shootout win, 3-2, against the New Jersey Devils on Thursday. Kyle Chipchura and Chris Summers scored in regulation. Backup goaltender Thomas Greiss made 26 saves and didn’t allow a goal in the shootout for the win.
Meet the Yotes
Phoenix has lost twice in its past seven games, with one in overtime. On March 15, the Coyotes were six points behind the Wild for the top wild-card spot and two back of the Dallas Stars for the second Wild Card; Dallas and Minnesota each had a game in hand.
After a 2-0-1 road trip against the New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins and New Jersey Devils, the Coyotes can leap the Wild and win the season series.
If You’re Going
Josh Sweeney scored the Gold-Medal winning goal for Team USA in the Sochi Paralympics and he’ll drop the ceremonial first puck before tonight’s contest.
The Wild will wear its WHITE sweaters tonight.
Parise scored his 25th goal Thursday, becoming the eighth player to hit the single-season milestone in franchise history after Jason Pominville hit the marker earlier this year. Parise has tallied at least one point in 14 of the last 20 games, totaling 20 points (10-10=20) in that span.
Probable Wild Lineup
Here’s what the shaken up lines looked like at morning skate:
The blue line will stay the same:
Between the Pipes
Ilya Bryzgalov is 9-3-1 with a 2.20 GAA and .921 SV% in 14 starts against the Coyotes.
Yeo Quote of the Day
We've had a number of them but they continue to get bigger…they're all big this time of year, let's face it. But this game is obviously going to have an awful lot of importance for the standings and for us to get our game going here, to get some wins and get feeling good about ourselves.
- Yeo on the importance of tonight's game
View From The Press Box
Honorary State of Hockey Resident
D Zbynek Michalek skated in 22 games with Minnesota in 2003-04.
In the last meeting in Phoenix, Fontaine scored three goals on four shots to become the first Wild rookie in franchise history to record a hat trick, and just the ninth Wild player to ever accomplish the feat all-time.
Wild at Coyotes will be broadcast locally in high definition on FOX Sports North and FOX Sports Wisconsin with a start time at 8:00 p.m. The game can be heard on KFAN 100.3 FM or online at Wild.com.
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