The Minnesota Wild have stumbled into Arizona for a matchup with the Phoenix Coyotes. Entering play tonight the Wild lead the Coyotes by a single point in the Western Conference Wild Card race. This is the season on the line for the Wild. They have faltered going 4-5-4 in the month of March and must win tonight. The Coyotes are playing well right now making up 5 points on the Wild since the middle of the month. Minnesota has played poorly as they enter the homestretch of the regular season. Their last two games have been embarrassing losses to St. Louis and Vancouver. Tonight they need to make a statement against a team they have split a pair of games with so far this season.
The big news today is that for the first time Dany Heatley appears to be a healthy scratch for tonight. Heatley has been ineffective and struggling for some time now and Head Coach Mike Yeo is finally going to sit him. This makes room for Justin Fontaine, the teams 3rd leading goal scorer, to return to the lineup. Cody McCormick will also be scratched in favor of Stephane Veilleux This shuffles the forward lines a bit, to say the least. the lines tonight appear to be:
Defensively the pairings will be the same as the past few games with:
Getting the start in net tonight will be Ilya Bryzgalov. He brings a 2-0-3 record with Minnesota into the action against his old team tonight. Bryzgalov has a .900 save % and a 2.45 goals against average since joining the Wild.
Tonight the Wild need to get off to a good start, score the games first goal and win the special teams battle. Easier said than done for this Wild squad lately. Hopefully the line changes will bear some fruit and the defensive lapses of the last couple of games will be gone. The penalty kill units which have been porous as of late need to really step it up this evening against a Coyotes team that converts at a 20.6% rate, the 3rd best in the NHL. Tonight the Wild have to put it all on the line or they fall to the second Wild Card spot in the West. I’ll be back after the game with a recap and some analysis. Until then this is Scott Drain still shouting out, “LET’S GO WILD!!”