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Phoenix Coyotes vs. Minnesota Wild Preview: Everything Coming Up Sixes

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A preview of tonight's Coyotes vs. Wild game at Xcel Center.

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USA TODAY Sports

The Phoenix Coyotes meet the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday night with both squads heading in opposite directions. Phoenix is mired in a six game losing streak, while Minnesota won their sixth straight game on Monday night. Will both streak continue or will the Desert Dogs find a way to end their skid?

Going into tonight's contest the Wild sit in fourth place in the West at 40 points. They are 2 points back of Northwest division leader Vancouver, but with two games in hand. The Coyotes currently sit in thirteenth position in the conference. They are four points out of the last playoff spot and well let's just say they won't be repeating as Pacific division champs.

This is the final time the two squads meet this season. The teams split the their two prior meetings, both in Glendale. The Coyotes won the first game and the Wild one the last one. The Wild have a 11-3-1 record at home this season, while the Coyotes are 3-8-3 on the road.

Five for Winning

1. Score first. The last time Phoenix scored first in a game was the last time they tasted victory.

2. Special Teams. At the very least the Coyotes need to be even in goal differential on special teams.This will be a tough task as the Wild statistically have better power play and penalty kills units than the Coyotes.

3. Discipline. Dumb penalties are one of the main reason the Yotes are struggling. They can't afford to put a suddenly hot Wild power play on the ice.

4. Focus. The players needs to forget about the losing streak and the poor road record. This season has come down to maximizing every shift. Mental lapses have been the theme of the season.

5. Marty & Moss. Get big bodies screening and deflecting shots in front of Backstrom. Hanzal's goal against the Wings on Monday is an excellent example what they need to be doing.

Players To Watch

Radim Vrbata

#17 / Right Wing / Phoenix Coyotes

6-1

190

Jun 13, 1981

GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2012 - Radim Vrbata 18 4 10 14 -1 8 1 0 0 54

Vrbata has had an assist in each of the team's last two games. However, the team needs him scoring goals and hopefully in his fourth game back a goal or two will be forthcoming.

Mikko Koivu

#9 / Center / Minnesota Wild

6-2

200

Mar 12, 1983

GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2012 - Mikko Koivu 31 8 20 28 4 16 0 0 2 82

Free agent signees Zach Parise and Ryan Suter have gotten most of the attention this season (good and bad), but Koivu, the team's captain, in many ways is still the player to fear most because of his all around skill set. He's also been scoring goals lately.

Likely Stating Goaltenders

Jason LaBarbera

#1 / Goalie / Phoenix Coyotes

6-3

234

Jan 18, 1980


GP MIN W L EGA GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2012 - Jason LaBarbera 9 358 1 5 14 2.35 182 168 .923 0

Barbs put in a workmanlike performance on Monday night against the Wings, but it was not enough. If he was ever going to steal a game for the team tonight needs to be the night


Niklas Backstrom

#32 / Goalie / Minnesota Wild

6-1

189

Feb 13, 1978

GP MIN W L EGA GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2012 - Niklas Backstrom 26 1515 17 7 58 2.30 708 650 .918 1

Backstrom was the NHL's second star of the week last week. In other words, he's playing extremely well of late.

Injuries

Coyotes:

Zbynek Michalek (lower body) - Day to Day

MIke Smith (upper body) - Out

Wild:

Cal Clutterbuck (leg) - Questionable

Josh Harding (symptoms related to M.S.) - Out