NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Wednesday, February 10th (All times eastern)
Phoenix Coyotes (36-19-5) at Minnesota Wild (29-25-4), 8 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The Minnesota Wild attempt to remain perfect on an important current homestand in tonight's matchup with the surging Phoenix Coyotes from the Xcel Energy Center.
The Wild have won the first two tests of this five-game residency and improved to an outstanding 20-6-2 at the Xcel Energy Center this season with Saturday's 2-1 decision over Philadelphia. The win was the fourth in a row for Minnesota on home ice, and the club is 8-0-1 over its last nine outings as the host.
Minnesota got a huge lift from young goaltender Anton Khudobin in its latest win. Making his first career NHL start, the 23-year-old stopped 38-of-39 shots to allow goals by Owen Nolan and Cal Clutterbuck to stand up.
"Our goaltender was great tonight. He was the difference in the game," said Wild head coach Todd Richards. "We would have liked to have started the game with a couple soft ones to work into it, but [the Flyers] came out strong. He couldn't sit at the edge of the pool and dip his toes in -- he had to jump right in."
Khudobin was recalled from Houston of the AHL last Thursday due to injuries to backstops Niklas Backstrom (back, illness) and Josh Harding (hip). The Russian rookie may have earned himself another start tonight with Saturday's performance, although Backstrom could be ready to return from his six-game absence after practicing on Monday.
Saturday's win was an important one for the Wild, who currently sit 12th in a competitive Western Conference race and trail Nashville and Calgary by five points in the race for the final two playoff seeds. They'll be hoping the victory can also lead to some success against the Coyotes in the fourth and final meeting between these teams this season.
Phoenix has won the first three matchups, including a 3-2 verdict in St. Paul on November 18 which stopped a string of seven straight losses as the visitor in this series. Minnesota has still prevailed in 12 of its past 17 overall encounters with the Coyotes, however.
The upstart Coyotes enter tonight's tilt having won seven of their last eight games and rebounded strongly from Saturday's 4-0 loss at Dallas with a 6-1 shellacking of the doormat Edmonton Oilers Monday in Glendale. Matthew Lombardi fueled the rout with a career-best five-point night, scoring twice and assisting on three others.
Robert Lang added a goal and two helpers for Phoenix, while James Vandermeer had a goal and one assist to help back a 33-save showing from goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov.
"A couple of forwards did a good job of finding some opportunities and capitalizing," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett remarked. "Bryzgalov was excellent. That was the story of the game right there."
Shane Doan contributed a pair of helpers to Monday's win despite sitting out the entire third period with an upper-body injury. The Coyotes captain is termed as questionable to suit up for tonight's clash.
Phoenix, which hasn't reached the postseason since the 2001-02 campaign, stands fourth in the West with 77 points at the moment.
02/10 10:33:27 ET