GAMEDAY: Wild at Coyotes
Minnesota Wild (19-7-3: 41 points, 1st in Western Conference, 1st in Northwest Division) at Phoenix Coyotes (15-10-3: 33 points, 3rd in Western Conference, 1st in Pacific Division)
The Minnesota Wild’s six-game winning streak started back on November 28 in a 3-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. That victory featured a brilliant 32-save from Niklas Backstrom
. Nearly two weeks later, the Wild have used three goaltenders and the W’s keep piling up. Tonight, after two games of stellar play from rookie Matt Hackett
, Backstrom gets back in the cage against a Phoenix Coyotes team he’s tormented over his career.
The Wild pushed its overall win streak and its road win streak to six on Thursday in a 4-2 win over the Los Angeles Kings. Mikko Koivu
, Darroll Powe
, Marco Scandella
and Cody Almond
accounted for the goals, but it was Hackett that stole the show again. In his first NHL start, he turned away 42 shots to earn his second NHL victory in three nights.
The Pacific Division-leading Coyotes return home after a three-game road trip that ended with a thud in a 5-2 loss to Detroit on Thursday. The Coyotes spotted the Wings a 5-0 lead in the first period before Radim Vrbata and Martin Hanzal scored for Phoenix. Mike Smith took the loss in goal after allowing four goals on the first 11 shots.
Wild at Coyotes will be broadcast locally in high definition on Fox Sports North with a start time at 7:00 PM. The game can be heard on KFAN 100.3 FM or online at Wild.com.
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It’s Buck Bash night tonight at Jobing.com Arena, which means beer, soda, hot dogs and more can be had for a single dollar.
The Coyotes were supposed to fall back to earth after goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov took his talents to Philadelphia. Instead, they have climbed back on top of the Pacific Division thanks to stingy defense, but also the stellar play of Radim Vrbata. Without a slew of proven scorers, Vrbata has raised his game, scoring 14 goals in 28 games after scoring 19 all of last season.
Throughout this streak, the contributions have come from all areas of the Wild lineup. Dany Heatley
has been an offensive constant throughout. Over the last five games, he has a point in each of them, tallying two goals and three assists.
With two wins over Anaheim and San Jose earlier in the week, this road trip could have already been considered a success. Instead of getting complacent, the Wild came flying out of the gates on Thursday and had their best start in some time. Head Coach Mike Yeo continues to find ways to motivate his team to avoid satisfaction, and the prospect of a seven-game win streak should serve that purpose tonight.
In keeping with the theme of players coming up from the Houston Aeros and jumping right into the fray, Jeff Taffe
proved his worth on Thursday. On his first shift playing for his hometown team, Taffe registered an assist on Koivu’s goal. He saw first line minutes, played on the power play and had several scoring chances. He’ll be right back on the top line tonight.
will be given one more night off before getting back into the lineup:
The defensive pairings will remain unchanged tonight:
Backstrom gets the start against the team he’s gone 10-6-0 against with three shutouts and a 2.06 goals against average.
will be the only healthy scratch tonight.
Backstrom is ready to return from his groin injury. Clutterbuck (lower body) has been ruled out. Devin Setoguchi
(lower body) is out and was placed on injured reserve retroactive to Tuesday. Harding (upper body) is unavailable after flying back to the Twin Cities yesterday to see a doctor. Justin Falk
(upper body) was placed on injured reserve on Saturday and did not travel with the team. Guillaume Latendresse
(concussion) and Marek Zidlicky
(concussion) are out indefinitely.
"It’s a real credit to those guys as far as understanding what their game is and how they have to play to be successful. If they’re playing on the first line or the third line or the fourth line, wherever they’re at, their game doesn’t change.”
- Mike Yeo on the Wild’s role players
Smith spent one season as a goaltender with the Wild’s AHL affiliate in Houston during the lockout year of 2004-2005.
The Wild and Winnipeg Jets are the only teams to use 30 or more players on the roster this season.