Riding the lows and then the highs of the road after a 6-1 drubbing in Dallas and then a 6-2 victory in St. Louis, the Minnesota Wild return home for a five-game stretch. This home-cooking team will get a chance to make a dent in their quest for a wild-card spot in the playoffs, starting with a game against the Arizona Coyotes (12-32-9) on Thursday night.
Not only are the Coyotes a struggling team in the wins column this season, the Wild have quite a successful history against them. The Wild are 9-0-2 when facing the Coyotes, a streak dating back more than four years to Jan. 9, 2014. At 11 games, it’s the longest point streak in franchise history against any opponent. The Wild are also 4-0-1 in the last five games in St. Paul when facing Arizona, going back to Oct. 23, 2014.
It’s the first meeting between the two clubs this season; the Wild will head to the desert March 1.
The five-game set at home is the second-longest for the Wild (29-19-5) this year. They boast an 18-4-4 record at Xcel Energy Center and are in the middle of a 10-game point streak on home ice, which is tied for the franchise record.
After only having a few games this season where the Wild are a completely healthy team, a name will go back on the injury list. Defenseman Jonas Brodin, with five goals and 10 assists, was injured during the St. Louis game and had successful surgery on his left hand.
He’s out for a few weeks.
The Wild also acquired 25-year-old defenseman Victor Loov from the New Jersey Devils in a trade Thursday, sending forward Mario Lucia (second-round pick in 2011) and Christoph Bertschy (sixth-round pick in 2012) to New Jersey. Loov, who’s played for the Devils’ AHL affiliate, will head to Iowa.
The past two games for the Wild have been a couple of extremes with a game in Dallas where defenseman Ryan Suter said they “quit playing,” then going into a scoring spree in St. Louis against former coach Mike Yeo. Mikko Koivu, Jason Zucker, Mikael Granlund and Eric Staal each had two-point nights and Devan Dubnyk made 35 saves. Zucker has a goal in seven of his last nine games and tied his career-high in goals with 22.
Dubnyk is scheduled to start in net against his former team, marking his 400th career game in the NHL. He’s 120-64-16 in 207 games with the Wild since they acquired him from Arizona on Jan. 14, 2015 in one of the blockbuster trades of the Chuck Fletcher era.
On special teams, the Wild’s power play has produced at least a goal with the man advantage in eight of the past nine games. Their penalty kill at home continues to remain a strong factor, ranking second in the NHL with just nine goals allowed on 81 attempts.
The Coyotes have dropped four straight games and have won only three contests since the start of the calendar year. Those are modest streaks compared to their 0-10-1 start to the season. They’re looking for just their seventh road win this season. Their last win in regulation was Jan. 20 in St. Louis.
Clayton Keller leads the way for the Coyotes with 14 goals and 22 assists. Brendan Perlini is tied for the team lead in goals with 14. Derek Stepan is second in points with 32 and tied for the lead in the assists column with 22.
The game marks Hockey Is For Everyone Awareness Night. The NHL is celebrating diversity and inclusion both on and off the ice throughout the month. Look for a Minnesota Sled Hockey game at intermission, along with video recaps of the 2017 USA Hockey Sled Hockey Classic, which was held in Plymouth last November. One player from each NHL club is the official ambassador for the event; Charlie Coyle represents the Wild.
On the Minnesota connections list, forward Stepan is a Hastings native and kept ties in the Midwest when he played at the University of Wisconsin. Alex Goligoski, of Grand Rapids, played for the Gophers for three years.
Wild forward Daniel Winnik was a Coyotes ninth-round pick in 2004 and played 202 games in Arizona. Dubnyk had a cup of coffee with the Coyotes in 2014-15, going 9-5-2 in 19 games (16 starts).
Jonas Brodin (surgery on left hand), out three to four weeks
Total man games lost: 102