After winning seven consecutive games, the Phoenix Coyotes see themselves having lost two consecutive regulation games for the first time all season. They'll try to snap that streak, and get to a split on this two-game road swing, in a tilt with the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday night.
The Wild enter tonight's contest at just a game over .500, at 11-10-2, good for 13th in the Western Conference. The Coyotes have stumbled in their last pair of games, dropping to a tie for sixth in the West after having risen to second during their seven game streak.
Minnesota will get a boost, though it may be more mental than physical, with the return of one of their franchise greats, Pierre-Marc Bouchard. Bouchard hasn't played since last year's season opener after a concussion ended his season. While he may be rusty, the Wild and their crowd are sure to get a boost from the return of the franchise's fourth leading scorer.
On the Phoenix injury front, they look to be all systems go following the return of center Kyle Turris in Nashville on Tuesday. Turris played a solid game, logging about 12 minutes of ice time and winning the majority of his faceoffs.
Between the pipes, the Coyotes will deal with another solid goaltender, in Wild netminder Niklas Backstrom. Backstrom, similar to Pekka Rinne, doesn't have a stellar record, at just 8-7-2, but his stats say otherwise. The Finnish goaltender has a .916 save percentage and 2.66 goals against average in his 17 starts this season.
Phoenix may give a rare day of rest to starter Ilya Bryzgalov. Backup Jason LaBarbera could see his first start since November 10th, when he defeated the Chicago Blackhawks. One of the league's best backups last season, LaBarbera struggled early, losing his first three starts, but surrendered just one goal in his last start in Chicago in the Coyotes' 2-1 win.
Both of these teams come in to Wednesday's contest having dropped their last pair of games. The Coyotes allowed Nashville to snap their four-game skid on Tuesday, but should have an easy time correcting their mistakes from that game.
Much of the Coyotes' woes against the Preds were due to their time spent in the penalty box. Phoenix took some bad penalties in that game, going to the box seven times, and two of the three Predator goals came on the power play.
With a win, the Coyotes can tie the idle Dallas Stars for first in the Pacific Division and bump them up to fifth in the Western Conference. While the Wild's record indicate that they may be struggling, they are 7-5-1 at the Xcel Energy Center. The Coyotes are no slouches on the road either. Having lost just their fourth regulation game in 12 road contests, Wednesday night's bout with the Wild has the potential to be a thriller.