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Hard luck Arizona Coyotes travel to Minnesota to play Wild

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It was a tale of two games for the Coyotes last night. What will we see tonight?

NHL: Arizona Coyotes at Minnesota Wild Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

If it’s not one thing, it’s another for the Arizona Coyotes.

The Coyotes head to Minnesota to play the Minnesota Wild after a tough 6-3 loss in Winnipeg last night. Arizona is on a three game losing streak, while Minnesota is 7-2-1 in their last ten games.

View from Arizona

It seems like only yesterday that the Coyotes managed to score three goals yet still get doubled up on the score-sheet. Of course, it actually was yesterday, but hopefully the feelings surrounding that loss spur the Coyotes into really taking it to the Wild early.

Arizona pulled off a decent 20 minutes of hockey early in the first period, with an even-strength and a power play goal. The Coyotes were opportunistic, aggressive, and willing to take shots from all around the offensive zone.

And then the second and third period happened. Arizona’s long-standing defensive lapses reasserted themselves in the ugliest fashion, and Mike Smith did not survive the evening, as he was pulled midway through the third in favor of Louis Domingue, who finished with a clean sheet.

View from Minnesota

For more on the Minnesota Wild, check out Hockey Wilderness

When last the Coyotes met the Minnesota Wild, Minnesota was in the middle of a 12 game winning streak that somehow managed to not even be the longest active streak at the time. The Wild powered their way to a 4-1 victory over the Coyotes at Gila River Arena on December 17th.

The Wild have been jockeying for position with Chicago at the top of the Central Division standings thanks in large part to two people: Devan Dubnyk and Bruce Boudreau. Dubnyk has been absolutely outstanding in net for the Wild, with a .937 save percentage and a 1.85 GAA. Meanwhile, Boudreau has spurred the Wild to a playing at an incredibly high level. Given the fact that Boudreau’s teams have won their division in eight of his nine coaching seasons, that shouldn’t be a surprise.

The big question for Minnesota will be what happens in the second season. Boudreau’s demon has always been an inability to make deep playoff runs, and Zach Parise and Ryan Suter are not getting any younger. Given the Wild are projected to finish with just under one million in salary cap space, there’s not a lot Minnesota can add without moving someone else out. But given Dubnyk is turning in a Vezina-caliber season and the Wild are banging on all cylinders, now might be the time to load up for a run at the Cup.

Three Questions

  1. Who plays in net? - With the road back-to-back on the schedule, Dave Tippett was undoubtedly hoping to roll with Mike Smith last night and Louis Domingue tonight. But both played last night. Does that change Tippett’s thought-process, or does Tippett stick with Domingue? And how will the netminder respond to two consecutive nights of action?
  2. Who plays on defense? - This is more of a rhetorical question than an actual one, but Arizona was dreadful in the second and third periods on the defensive end. Will anybody on the blue-line step up and help a goalie out?
  3. Who plays on the power play? - Arizona was +1 on special teams with a five-on-three goal against the Jets on a designed play featuring Shane Doan in the faceoff circle. He had 12 power play goals last year, so maybe he needs to be out there more often?

Players to Watch

Arizona - Alexander Burmistrov - In his two games with the Coyotes, Burmistrov has a pair of assists. He’s been a burst of energy on an offense that’s seemingly weighed down by the struggles of the season, so let’s hope he continues to give his teammates a lift down the stretch.

Minnesota - Eric Staal - When Staal hit free agency after a forgettable rental period with the New York Rangers, it was something of an open question as to what kind of future Staal had in the NHL. So far with the Wild, Staal looks like a new player, with 15 goals and 24 assists in 43 games.

Injury Report

Arizona is without Brad Richardson, Ryan White, and Max Domi for an indefinite period of time. Martin Hanzal missed last night’s game dealing with a personal matter and is officially considered questionable to play tonight.

Minnesota will not have Victor Bartley or Jonas Brodin, who are both on injured reserve. Minnesota is completely healthy otherwise.

Puck Drop

Tonight’s game gets underway at 6 PM Arizona time. You can watch the game on Fox Sports Arizona Plus or listen on ESPN 620 AM.