After nearly a week of rest, the Phoenix Coyotes will hit the ice on Thursday night when they host the Minnesota Wild at Jobing.com Arena. Neither team has played since the weekend, with Minnesota having last played on Saturday, and the Yotes since Sunday.
The two teams met a week ago in Minnesota, with the Coyotes coming out on the winning side of a 4-2 game, with a pair of goals from Scottie Upshall. Phoenix dominated the play at full strength and managed to stay out of the penalty box, leading to the win.
Offensively, these two teams are contrasts of each other. The Coyotes have the ability to strike fast, and with seemingly anybody on the ice, while Minnesota ranks just 24th in the league in goals per game and are dead last in shots per game.
The only real lineup change for the Coyotes will come on the blue line. Recently called up Oliver Ekman-Larsson is expected to be in the lineup. Bruiser Nolan Yonkman didn't play on Sunday after a rough game on Saturday, with Sami Lepisto getting the start in his place. OEL will most likely be in the lineup over both of them.
Perhaps the biggest reason the Coyotes are looking forward to Thursday's contest is the presence of Niklas Backstrom between the pipes for Minny. The struggles of the Finnish goaltender have led to more starts for the veteran Jose Theodore, who started the last game between these two teams. Backstrom has lost four in a row and has given up 19 goals in that skid.
Last week, Jason LaBarbera got the nod in goal for the Yotes, but it will be Ilya Bryzgalov in the crease on Thursday night. Bryz has been lights out, giving up more than two goals in just one of his last six starts, in that six goal disaster against the Anaheim Ducks.
Thursday presents the Coyotes with an opportunity to jump on a struggling club while they're down. They failed to do it against the Florida Panthers over the weekend, but did spend most of the game being stoned by keeper Scott Clemmenssen. If Niklas Backstrom's woes of late are any indication, the Coyotes shouldn't have a problem putting points on the scoreboard.
A win for Phoenix would be their sixth in a row over the Wild. However, the Yotes can't afford to look past the struggling Wild, with division rival Dallas coming to town Saturday, as they will surely be looking for every way possible to end their slide.
The game starts at 7:00 p.m. Arizona time and will be televised locally on FSAZ in Phoenix, and on XTRA Sports 910. Fans can follow along with the live game thread at Five for Howling.