The Minnesota Wild return to the friendly confines of the Xcel Energy Center tonight as they take on the Phoenix Coyotes with puck drop slated for 7 pm Central Time. The Wild bring an overall record of 15-6-4 into tonight’s game while the Coyotes are 14-6-4. Both teams have struggled on the road this season going 5-5-2. On home ice though the Wild are an amazing 10-1-2. The big story for both teams tonight are injuries to key players. The Wild lost Zach Parise to a foot injury last game against the Blues. Initially he was projected to be out of action for two to three weeks but then he showed up on the ice this morning and skated until the pain became too great. He will not play tonight. Some other Minnesota players may or may not be returning from injury tonight. Mikael Granlund, Torrey Mitchell, Keith Ballard, and Josh Harding are all reportedly close to playing. Jason Zucker is still with the team as well and gives Head Coach Mike Yeo another option with the sure to be reconfigured forward lines. Due to all the possibles and probables I don’t have any set forward lines to share with you. We’ll have to wait until closer to game time for that. The Coyotes are missing Captain Shane Doan who left Monday’s game with a lower body injury and will not play tonight. In addition Phoenix is missing winger Lauri Korpikoski and defenseman Zbynek Michalek. The injury to Doan throws their top lines into flux as well. I would expect Niklas Backstrom (2-2-2) to get the start in goal tonight with Josh Harding dressing as his backup. Mike Smith (12-5-4) will get the start in net for the Coyotes.
Phoenix is scoring an average of 3.17 goals a game to the Wild’s 2.44 but when it comes to goals allowed Minnesota only gives up 2.20 to 3.17 for the Coyotes. The Wild also have the edge in shots allowed giving up an average of just 25.2 to Phoenix’s 34.7 per game. The Wild need to get off to a fast start tonight and put a high number of shots on Phoenix goalie Smith who brings a 3.02 goals against average and a save percentage of .911 into tonight’s action. Defensively the Wild need to keep up with their league low shots against average to give their reconfigured forward lines the best chance to score. These are two of the better teams in the Western Conference with the Wild currently tied for third in the Central Division and tied for 6th in the Conference with 34 points. The Coyotes are sitting in 4th place in the Pacific Division and are 8th in the Conference with 32 points. Minnesota is in a stretch of games against teams in playoff position in the Western Conference with Phoenix tonight and a home and home series with the Colorado Avalanche this weekend.
I’ll be back after the game with a full recap and some analysis of the night’s action. Until then this is Scott Drain shouting, “Let’s Go Wild!”