For the last three days, Wild players have had to deal with questions about a five-game winless skid. And in those last three days, they've pointed to improved play, two comebacks that have produced points in the standings and returns of players from injury that should have this team turning a corner and pushing for a playoff spot. After all, despite sitting idle since Saturday, the Wild finds itself just six points back of the eighth place Anaheim Ducks who have played five more games.
But as we know, what you say is different from what you show, and the Wild has a chance this weekend to show that it is a contender in the West, starting tonight in Phoenix.
The Wild started its string of four straight road games against Pacific Division opponents with a 4-3 overtime loss to the Dallas Stars on Saturday. After trailing 2-0, Minnesota battled back on goals from Antti Miettinen and Chuck Kobasew. Again, the Wild feel behind, but Martin Havlat forced overtime with a late third period goal for the second straight night. Jose Theodore took the OT loss after stopping 29 of 33 shots.
While the Wild has had time to reflect on a winless skid, the Coyotes have had three days to enjoy a 3-0 shutout win over the Ducks on Sunday. Ilya Bryzgalov stopped all 26 shots he faced, while Taylor Pyatt, Shane Doan and Lee Stempniak accounted for the goals.
Wild at Coyotes will be broadcast locally in high definition on FOX Sports North at 8:00 PM. The game can be heard on WCCO 830 AM, or online at Wild.com.
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When you think tailgating, you might think football games or NASCAR. But with a hockey team that plays year-round in the sunny heat of Arizona, you can tailgate before hockey games as well. Considering it will be a high of 77 degrees in Glendale, there is no better time to tailgate than tonight. Just make sure you're in Lot A, B, G, J, K or X. Wild.com is not responsible if you get in trouble for tailgating in non-designated areas.
The Coyotes continue to baffle as to how they can be so high up in the standings without a single player with more than eight goals. Sure, Bryzgalov has been good, but is he that good? Apparently, he is, despite getting waived by the Ducks three years ago. Between this season and last, Bryzgalov has posted a record of 53-24-12 with 10 shutouts.
Of course, it was backup Jason LaBarbera that stumped the Wild just over a week ago at Xcel Energy Center. He held the Wild front lines off long enough for Scottie Upshall to bank a misfire in off Marek Zidlicky in the third period for the game-winner in a 4-2 Yotes triumph.
A two-game point streak is modest, but considering that Pierre-Marc Bouchard hadn't played a game in more than a year and already has two points through three games, he's considered hot. Bouchard helped set up Havlat's tying goal on Saturday, and those two seem to have developed immediate chemistry (although you could probably put Havlat with Ogie Ogelthorpe at this point and he'd stay steaming hot). The Wild has made it clear that Bouchard's return will go a long way toward an ascension up the standings, and a two-game point streak is a solid start.
Health is always a concern for every team, and players go down. The Wild has been without its leading goal scorer from last year for most of the season with Guillaume Latendresse requiring surgery. But the Wild roster is re-stocked with healthy players who were counted on at the beginning of the season. Kobasew returned from a lower body injury on Saturday and promptly picked up his second score of the season, and Brent Burns is ready to go again despite taking a Greg Zanon helmet to the face on Friday night.
With Havlat and Bouchard appearing poised to put up numbers, the Wild needs its top line of Miettinen, Andrew Brunette and Mikko Koivu to be the other offensive threat. It looks like it's coming. Miettinen picked up his seventh of the year on Saturday to move into a tie for the team lead, and the trio turned in a monster third period shift in Dallas that seemed to swing momentum the Wild's way and led to Havlat's goal. Koivu's line has had three days to watch tape, and they're smart guys. Look for them to apply what they learned tonight.