NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Saturday, December 31st (All times Eastern)
Phoenix Coyotes (18-16-4) at Minnesota Wild (21-12-6), 6 p.m.
(Sports Network) - After ending their longest losing streak of the season their last time out, the Minnesota Wild will try to build some momentum when they host the sliding Phoenix Coyotes today at Xcel Energy Center.
The Wild ended an eight-game losing skid with a home victory Thursday against the Edmonton Oilers. It was Minnesota's first win since a 4-1 triumph over the Coyotes on Dec. 10.
During the 0-5-3 stretch, Minnesota was knocked out of the top spot in the Northwest Division and currently trails Vancouver by two points for first place.
Dany Heatley scored the eventual game-winning goal late in the second period against the Oilers, as Minnesota avoided going nine straight games without a win for the first time since Jan. 19-Feb. 8, 2002. Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Jarrod Palmer and Mikko Koivu also lit the lamp for the Wild.
Niklas Backstrom made 27 saves for the win, improving his career home mark against Edmonton to an incredible 16-0-0.
"There was a lot of emotion tonight to get that losing streak over with," Backstrom said. "In this game you have to play with a lot of emotion and when you do that good things happen. It feels like a playoff atmosphere because we've played these guys seemingly every week."
Defenseman Jared Spurgeon has missed the last two games for Minnesota with a lower body injury and is questionable for today's game.
Minnesota is 11-5-3 as the host this year and will try to post consecutive home wins for the first time since beating Tampa Bay and New Jersey on Nov. 28 and Dec. 2, respectively.
The Coyotes enter this evening's contest on a four-game slide and Dave Tippett's club is just 3-7-1 over its last 11 trips to the ice.
Phoenix was dealt a 3-2 regulation loss Thursday in Colorado, as Gabriel Landeskog scored the winner early in the third period for the Avalanche. Mikkel Boedker notched both goals for the Coyotes, while Jason LaBarbera played well in defeat, making 32 stops.
"It's frustrating since we played some close games. We've had something like seven one-goal games in a row and we've won just two of them," said Tippett. "When you're chasing the puck all game, you're going to get tired."
The loss in Colorado marked the first stop on a four-game road trip for the Coyotes, who are 11-8-1 as the visiting team this year.
Minnesota's 4-1 win over the Coyotes earlier this month was the Wild's third victory in the last four games of this series. Kyle Brodziak tallied twice in the win for Minnesota and Backstrom made 35 saves.
The Wild notched a 6-5 overtime win when these clubs last met in Minnesota on Jan. 2 of last season. Phoenix had won three straight in St. Paul before that OT setback.
12/31 10:32:30 ET