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Arizona Coyotes begin two day road-trip in Minnesota

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The Coyotes will get two quick games in before the All-Star Break, beginning with tonight's contest against the Wild.

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

After a lengthy seven game homestand, the Arizona Coyotes are going to make up for lost time in a hurry.

The Coyotes will play two games against Central Division teams in two days before the All-Star Break, beginning with tonight's contest versus the Minnesota Wild.

Matchup at a Glance

Arizona Coyotes Minnesota Wild
Points 51 (3rd Pacific) 54 (5th Central)
Goals For 2.70 (10th) 2.50 (19th)
Goals Against 2.96 (T-26th) 2.33 (T-6th)
Power Play 18.6% (14th) 17.4% (18th)
Penalty Kill 76.4% (28th) 79.5% (21st)
5v5 Corsi For 47.0% (26th) 48.2% (20th)
PDO 101.2 (4th) 101.0 (T-5th)

View from Arizona

Arizona's 3-3-1 homestand ended on a high note thanks to a 3-2 victory on Saturday night against the Los Angeles Kings. The regulation win proved pivotal for Arizona's ability to stay in one of the three Pacific Division playoff spots.

These next two games will be very important, as Arizona will lose a game in hand it has over Vancouver, who is currently tied with the Coyotes with 51 points. Additionally, 5th place Anaheim will have two games in hand on Arizona by the Break, so it's pivotal that the Coyotes extend their lead over the Ducks from the two point advantage they currently have.

The road has not been a terribly forgiving place for the Coyotes; they are 10-10-2 away from Gila River Arena and 5-5-0 against the Central Division in general. That's a mark that will need to improve if Arizona is to hold on to its position.

View from Minnesota

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

The Wild are in the middle of an all-out fistfight with the surging Colorado Avalanche and Nashville Predators for the final Wild Card spot in the Western Conference, with Vancouver and Anaheim remaining in the picture a bit further out.

A 3-6-1 stretch has put the Wild in a tough position in the standings, though its not due to the play of either Devan Dubnyk or Darcy Kuemper, who both still have save percentages north of .920 on the season. Instead, the Wild have scored only ten goals in their last seven games; six of those came in their last two games against Los Angeles and San Jose.

Minnesota's top scorers have gone cold; of their five most prolific scorers, only Zach Parise (one goal) and Charlie Coyle (two goals) have scored in the team's last five games. Minnesota's defense has been stingy all season, but they need more offense to keep pace in the Central Division.

Keys to the Game

  • Get Shots On Net - Arizona did a better job of putting pressure on Jonathan Quick early, but they missed out on several good scoring chances because the puck sailed wide of the net. Instead of looking for the best angle, the Coyotes need to aim for the net and let their big men pounce on rebounds.
  • Play Through the Whistle - Arizona probably opens a two-goal lead up on Los Angeles if Louis Domingue immediately goes back to the crease after Tanner Pearson hits him. And Milan Lucic probably finishes the game if Kevin Connauton doesn't keep jockeying with him at the end of the play. Arizona needs to be pesky and persistent all night long.
  • Don't Play Conservative - The Coyotes will get a whole week off to recuperate after these two games. There's no excuse for not being as aggressive as possible in front of the net and around the boards.

Players to Watch

The line of Jordan Martinook, Brad Richardson, and Shane Doan continues to play exceptionally well for the Coyotes, with three of the team's last four goals.

It's awfully kind of Mike Yeo to only play Ryan Suter 28:22 per night instead of the 29:03 per game he played last season. Suter is the workhorse of the Wild, and will continue to be tonight.

Injury Report

Arizona still has Mike Smith and Joe Vitale on injured reserve, while Nicklas Grossmann missed Saturday's game with an illness, and is considered questionable for tonight's game.

The only injury to report for Minnesota is Ryan Carter, who is out until after the All-Star Break.

Puck Drop

Tonight's game begins at 6:30 PM Arizona time. You can watch the game on Fox Sports Arizona or listen on 92.3 KTAR FM.