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Coyotes vs Wild Preview: are we out of the woods yet?

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The Coyotes look to put an end on the losing streak in front of the home crowd

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Coming of a two week road trip, the Arizona Coyotes have lost the past five games, with at least five goals against in four out of the five games. However, the last time they were home they swept 3 games in 4 days. They get a chance to improve their home record tonight against the Minnesota Wild.

Matchup at a Glance



Arizona Coyotes

Minnesota Wild

Points

27 (T-4th Pacific)

33 (T-4th Central)

Goals For

2.68 (12th)

2.69 (11th)

Goals Against

3.18 (29th)

2.46 (T-11th)

Powerplay

14.8% (29th)

18.2% (T-15th)

Penalty Kill

81.9% (11th)

75.8% (26th)

5v5 Corsi For

46.47% (27th)

49.22% (17th)

PDO

100.9% (9th)

102% (3rd)


View from Arizona

When people have nightmares about the Coyotes' dark days, they probably look pretty similar to the games they played on their road trip. There seemed to be errors occurring in all areas of the ice: costly defensive blunders in the offensive and defensive zone, some offensives errors resulting in turnovers in the neutral zone and some rough goal tending out of both Mike Smith and Anders Lindback. 24 goals were scored on the Coyotes in the last 5 games.

The last game the Coyotes played against the Minnesota was pretty evenly matched. However, after a rough past two weeks it will be interesting to see if the Coyotes can get back on their feet and continue to be a presence in the Pacific Division.

View from Minnesota

For more on the Minnesota Wild, be sure to check out Hockey Wilderness

The Wild have had a pretty good season so far, sitting at fourth place in the Central Division, only one point away from the third playoff spot. However, their record in the last 10 games is 4-4-2, and on the road their record is 4-4-4. Ranked just above the Coyotes in goals for, the Wild will with no doubt look to increase their offensive production. Minnesota will look to take advantage of the Coyotes being ranked 29th in goals against in the league, and the fact that they seem unable to stop the opposing team from scoring.

The last time the Wild visited the desert, they stole two points from the Coyotes with a 4-3 win. No doubt they hope to tally another win tonight and garner an additional two points to put them back in playoff contention.


Keys to the Game

  • Goaltending. The goaltending for the Coyotes has not been solid for a while. Mike Smith let some huge goals in during the game against the Detroit Red Wings, and Anders Lindback was not much better after relieving him, nor during the matchup against Carolina. Tippet stated weak goaltending as the main issue with the losses and with it seeming like one of the two is being ruled out for the game tonight, goaltending is something that definitely needs to be hammered out.

  • Cut out defensive mistakes. Oliver Ekman-Larsson displayed some disastrous defensive mistakes in both the offensive and defensive zones that resulted in untimely turnovers and more often than not goals; he ended the five game road trip with a -12. He is not the lone defenseman to make a mistake though, and if the Coyotes intend to win they need to cut these errors out going forward.

  • No more shorties. The Coyotes have let in the most shorthanded goals in the league so far this season. They have allowed a total of seven shorthanded goals in twenty-eight games, which averages to one shorthanded goal for every four games played. This is two more shorthanded goals than the Coyotes allowed the entire past season. This is an occurrence that needs to stop as soon as possible.

Players to Watch

Connor Murphy will be back on the ice for the first time, after being a healthy scratch the past few games. Murphy was scratched due to a quite a few untimely penalties and a costly offside infraction in the game against Detroit. It will be interesting to see how Murphy performs now that he is back in the line-up.

Darcy Kuemper is the player to watch for Minnesota. With former Coyote Devan Dubnyk staying behind in Minnesota injured, Kuemper will get his chance to shine in front of the net. The Coyotes would like to exploit Kuemper's lack of game play this season, but only the game will tell how well he performs under the pressure.

Injury Report

Shane Doan, who has missed the past eight games with a lingering lower body injury, and Martin Hanzal will both be game time decisions. Doan practiced with the team yesterday but Hanzal did not. The timeline for the return of Joe Vitale, who suffered a fractured orbital bone against Boston, is still unknown.

Dubnyk is side-lined, listed as day to day with a groan strain injury, and did not travel with team. Tyler Graovac is currently on IR.

Puck Drop

Tonight's game will be at 7 PM Arizona time and will be broadcast on Fox Sports Arizona Plus and AZ Sports 98.7 FM.