Minnesota Wild (3-0-0: 6 points, 2nd in Western Conference, 1st in Northwest Division) at Phoenix Coyotes (2-2-0: 4 points, T-7th in Western Conference, 4th in Pacific Division) ***Wild at Coyotes will not be broadcast locally, but will be available on the NHL Center Ice Package. Check your satellite listings. It can be heard on WCCO 830 AM, or online at Wild.com***
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The Minnesota Wild, the only undefeated team in the Western Conference, will play on the road for the first time tonight when it faces the Phoenix Coyotes. With 25 mothers in tow, the Wild will have a rooting section at Jobing.com Arena tonight, and perhaps their skates will be tied just a little tighter than normal.
The Wild won its third straight game to open the season with a 2-0 shutout of the Edmonton Oilers at home on Wednesday night. Niklas Backstrom earned his second shutout in three starts, while Brent Burns and Pavol Demitra accounted for the goals. Marian Gaborik assisted on both Minnesota scores.
The Coyotes evened their record at 2-2-0 on Thursday night with a 6-3 win in Nashville. Fredrik Sjostrom posted a hat trick for Phoenix, which also got goals from Derek Morris, Martin Handzal and Radim Vrbata.
Burns appears to be finding his offensive stride this season, having scored game-winning goals in back-to-back contests. In actuality, Burns may have found his offense at the end of last year. Since scoring the first of back-to-back overtime game-winners on March 11 last year, Burns leads all NHL defensemen with six goals. His four game-winners in that span are tied for the League lead with Milan Michalek, and Mike Comrie.
Wild keys to the game
1. Give Him A Lead: Scoring that first goal is always important, but with Niklas Backstrom in net, it’s almost a guaranteed win. When Minnesota has staked Backstrom to a lead, he has a 24-1-2 career record. He’s also 16-0-0 when leading after two periods. Assuming he gets the start tonight, Backstrom will face a team he has gone 3-0-0 against with two shutouts. 2. Finish Line: The Wild essentially dominated the Oilers on Wednesday, but only came away with two goals. Backstrom made sure that was more than enough, but with Minnesota’s high-powered offense, it should be the minimum. 3. Even Up: The Wild has only given up two total goals this season, and none have come at even strength. On the flip side, the Wild has yet to score on the power play, although it hasn’t had numerous opportunities.
Keep An Eye On
When Brian Rolston takes the ice for his first shift, it will mark his 900th career game played.
Probable Wild Line Combos
Dominic Moore tried to practice yesterday, but had to leave early. That means James Sheppard will probably be the fourth center again:
The Wild begins its first set of back-to-back games tonight. It would seem logical that Backstrom will get the start against another team he has dominated. Josh Harding would likely start on Sunday in Anaheim.
View From the Press Box
No word out of Phoenix as to who will sit out.
Dominic Moore is still day-to-day with an abdominal strain.
Lemaire Quote of the Day
“I just hope we’re able to take off with all the extra luggage on the plane.”
Jacques Lemaire on his expectations for a trip with Wild mothers.
Referees: Gord Dwyer and Dan Marouelli Linesmen: Jonny Murray and Lyle Seitz
As if he haven’t given you enough mind-blowing stats on Niklas Backstrom, here’s one more: Backstrom is 13-0-1 in his last 14 decisions since March 6, 2007.
Honorary State of Hockey Residents
Keith Ballard (Baudette) and Peter Mueller (Bloomington) are both Minnesota natives. Craig Weller played collegiate hockey at Minnesota Duluth.
If You’re Going
Swing by and say hello to the Wild mothers. They won’t be hard to find. Look for 25 red jerseys with the names of their son’s on their backs.