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  • 3/1 PREGAME: Minnesota Wild vs. Arizona Coyotes

    Heather Rule

    The Minnesota Wild begin the month of March with a comfortable third-place lead in the Central Division after a 9-2-2 record in February, the most wins in a calendar month this season. They’re riding a season-high five-game winning streak, hoping to push it to six games with a victory in Arizona on Thursday night.


    The Wild (36-20-7) have bumped up their playoff hopes with some better road play lately. They’re just 14-15-1 on the road this season but have won four consecutive road games going back to Feb. 6.


    Meanwhile, the Coyotes (18-34-10) are the league’s worst team and haven’t recovered from their awful start to the season. However, they’ve played some better hockey lately. They’re 6-3-1 in their past 10 games and rattled off a season-high four wins in a row in February. Let’s not also forget that the last time these two teams met, the Wild blew a 3-0 lead and lost 4-3 in overtime when they hosted the Coyotes on Feb. 8.


    Despite the loss, the Wild still hold a 12-game point streak against the Coyotes with a 9-0-3 record against them dating back to Jan. 9, 2014. It’s their longest point streak against an opponent in franchise history. They’re 31-21-8 all-time against Arizona with 16 wins on the road.


    Of course, the Wild are coming off some strong offensive performances lately. The latest example was an 8-3 victory over St. Louis at home. Eric Staal and Jason Zucker each had five-point nights, including a hat trick for Staal.



    Speaking of the team’s All-Star, Staal is tied for fourth in the NHL in goals scored this season with 33. He’s scoring at a pace that would give him his most goals since his career-high season in 2005-06 when he scored 45 goals. He scored 100 points that season and already has 64 this season. He scored 13 goals and 21 assists in 13 games in the month of February, earning him NHL First Star of the Month honors.


    It’s the sixth time the Wild has ever had a player named an NHL Player of the Month. Staal is the first skater to earn the honor in a Wild sweater; the previous five were goaltenders.


    The line of Mikael Granlund, Staal and Zucker has been about as hot as one can get in a short span. They have 26 points in the past three games. Expect to see them together once again. Granlund has 19 goals and 34 assists this season. Zucker has a career-high 26 goals and 25 assists. They lead the Wild stats sheet in points (Staal, Granlund, Zucker).


    Jared Spurgeon’s goal in Tuesday’s game marked No. 56 of his career, making him the all-time franchise leader among defenseman for most goals in a season. Former Wild player Brent Burns scored 55 before he was traded to San Jose. He has nine goals this season and 24 assists.


    Former Wild goaltender Darcy Kuemper is a new member of the Coyotes team after he was acquired in a trade with Los Angeles before the deadline. Kuemper backs up Antti Raanta in the cage. Current Wild netminder Devan Dubnyk played with Arizona in 2014-15 before the blockbuster trade to the Wild on Jan. 14, 2015.



    Other Minnesota connections include Coyotes defenseman Alex Goligoski, a former Gophers player who hails from Grand Rapids. Derek Stepan is from Hastings and former Badger.


    The Wild have a set of road back-to-backs in the first three weeks of this month, starting with Arizona and then Colorado on Friday. They’re 5-4-1 on the first night of a back-to-back.


    Injury list:

    No injuries

    Total man games lost: 111




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