NHL Preview from The Sports Network|
Thursday, December 11th
(All times eastern)
Minnesota Wild (15-10-1) at Phoenix Coyotes (13-13-2), 9 p.m.
(Sports Network) - A meeting with the Coyotes always seems to bring out the
best in the Wild. Minnesota will try to find its offense and beat Phoenix for
a 10th straight time tonight, when the two teams collide at Jobing.com Arena.
The Wild have dropped three of their last four and have netted just one goal
over their last two games -- both losses. Minnesota had netted 19 goals over
its previous four games before this drought.
That might not matter against the Coyotes, who the Wild have not lost to since
November 14, 2006. Minnesota has already beaten Phoenix twice this year,
netting a total of seven goals, and is outscoring the club 28-10 over the
nine-game winning streak.
The Wild have also won four straight in Phoenix.
After a 2-1 setback to Vancouver last Friday, Minnesota was shut out for the
second time this season with a 1-0 loss in Nashville on Saturday. Eric
Belanger had a team-high six shots in the loss, while Josh Harding's career-
high 42 saves were wasted.
Despite Harding's solid performance, Niklas Backstrom should be back in net
tonight. After all, the goaltender is 8-0-0 with a 1.13 goals against average
in eight career starts against the Coyotes. That includes a shutout win on
November 13, his third all-time against them.
The Coyotes play the second part of a four-game road trip tonight and are
7-4-0 as the visiting team this year. They might be in for a treat when they
get home, as Marian Gaborik returned to practice on Tuesday for the first
time since suffering a lower-body injury in the middle of October.
He has played in just two games this year, notching one goal, but likely won't
be ready to return to the team during this road trip. Instead, a December 17
home game against Calgary could mark his return to the lineup. Gaborik had 42
goals and 83 points in 77 games last year.
The Coyotes got a big piece of their lineup back on Wednesday, as Olli Jokinen
returned from a six-game absence due to a shoulder injury and scored twice in
a 5-3 win over Dallas. Jokinen notched his third multi-goal game this season.
His first came against Minnesota on November 1 in a 3-2 loss.
Martin Hanzal also scored twice to give him six goals in his last five games
and eight on the season. He scored just eight goals in 72 games as a rookie
Steven Reinprecht added an empty-net tally, while Ilya Bryzgalov bounced back
from a bad previous start to make 29 saves and help Phoenix halt a two-game
slide. He had allowed all seven goals in a 7-1 loss to Chicago on Sunday.
Bryzgalov is 0-6-0 with a 3.40 GAA all-time versus Minnesota.
The Coyotes return home after a 1-2-0 road trip. They are 8-4-1 this year at
home, where they have won three of their last four.
12/11 10:43:40 ET