By Dave Vest
SAINT PAUL – The Coyotes will play four road games in the next eight days. First up is tonight's match against the Minnesota Wild at the Xcel Energy Center. The puck drops at 6 p.m. (Arizona time).
Injuries and penalties continue to slow the Coyotes, who are 2-5-0 in November after tying a franchise record by winning nine games in October.
“We’re doing some things right now that have put ourselves behind the eight ball, whether it’s taking a penalty at the wrong time or giving up a soft goal at the wrong time,” Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said. “We have to continue to find ways to correct those issues and give ourselves the best chance with a timely goal for instead of an untimely penalty against.”
Center Matthew Lombardi is the latest addition to the injury list. Lombardi sat out Monday’s game vs. Tampa Bay because of a lower-body injury and is listed as day-to-day.
Photo by Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images
Kevin Porter replaced Lombardi in the lineup on Monday and likely will do so again vs. the Wild. Porter played 10:41 in his season debut in the loss to Tampa Bay.
“He’s a heady player,” Tippett said. “He does some good things with the puck. I like the fact that’s he’s been down in San Antonio and plays in all critical situations there… I like his atttude and he has good intelligence for the game.”
The Coyotes (11-9-0) have won five of their first nine road games.
Ilya Bryzgalov will start in goal after watching backup Jason LaBarbera play Monday and lose 4-1. Bryzgalov enters the game with a league-high three shutouts and a 2.04 goals-against average.
Minnesota (7-11-2) struggled under new Head Coach Todd Richards at the start of the season, but has earned at least one point in four of its past five games.
“They’ve come on,” Tippett said. “I’ve watched two or three of their games lately and they look like they’re playing much better as a team. They look like they’re trying to play a more up-tempo game than in the past and they have some good players and strong goaltending.”
The Wild have played only seven home games thus far and have won five of them. Center Mikko Koivu leads the team with 18 points (five goals, 13 assists).
Coyotes defenseman Adrian Aucoin has notched a goal and two assists in the past four games. He played a season-high 28:04 on Nov. 14 vs. Dallas.
Wild defenseman Brent Burns, the 20th pick in the 2003 draft, has three assists in the past four games. On Nov. 15 vs. Carolina, he had a rare plus-4 rating.
Minnesota has beaten the Coyotes seven consecutive times at the Xcel Energy Center. The Wild have outscored Phoenix 27-9 in those games and have not trailed at any point. Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom has a 9-1-0 career record vs. Phoenix with a 1.51 goals-against average. Meanwhile, Coyotes goalie Ilya Bryzgalov is 1-7-0 vs. Minnesota with a 3.42 goals-against average.
Coyotes forward Peter Mueller, a native of nearby Bloomington, Minn., is looking to score his first career NHL goal in his home state.
Wild Head Coach Todd Richards coached Coyotes forward Paul Bissonnette when both were with Scranton/Wilkes Barre of the American Hockey League. Bissonnette credits Richards with convincing him to change from a defenseman to a forward.
“It’s kind of hectic, but it’s nice to finally be here and get a game in… For my first game, I thought I played OK.”