By Dave Vest
GLENDALE -- The Coyotes will try to stay undefeated vs. Minnesota this season when they host the Wild tonight at Jobing.com Arena. The puck drops at 6 p.m. (Arizona time).
Phoenix (27-16-5) has beaten Minnesota twice this season, once in Glendale and once in Saint Paul.
Ilya Bryzgalov, who stopped all 28 shots he faced the last time these teams played on Dec. 7 in Glendale, is expected to start in goal for the Coyotes, who snapped a three-game winless streak by beating New Jersey, 4-3, on Thursday. Bryzgalov earned his 24th win in that game.
Coyotes defenseman Ed Jovanovski will be back in the lineup after serving a two-game suspension for elbowing John Tavares of the New York Islanders a week ago.
"We're a different team when he's in the lineup, there's no doubt about that," Coyotes defenseman Adrian Aucoin said. "There aren't too many players in the league who enjoy playing against him. They know the kind of game he plays, not just physical but all-round. He's one of our ultimate leaders, for sure, and he's really helped us win games."
Minnesota (24-21-3) has won four of its past five games and is quietly creeping into the playoff picture after a slow start under new Head Coach Todd Richards. The Wild will enter the game in 10th place in the Western Conference standings, just four points behind eighth-place Los Angeles.
Goalie Niklas Backstrom, who did not play in the Wild's 1-0 loss at St. Louis on Thursday, is expected back in goal tonight. Backstrom is 9-3-0 with a 1.68 goals-against average against Phoenix, but he has lost three of his last four decisions vs. the Coyotes.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Because of the NFL playoffs, tonight's game will be aired on KFNN-AM (1510) and not XTRA Sports 910 AM.
Coyotes right wing Peter Mueller has scored two goals in the past three games. On Thursday, he scored a breakaway goal on future Hall-of-Fame goalie Martin Brodeur to key a 4-3 win over New Jersey.
Wild left wing Guillaume Latendresse, whom Minnesota acquired in a trade with Montreal on Nov. 23, has notched nine points in the past six games, including a goal and three assists vs. Pittsburgh on Jan. 11.
Coyotes captain Shane Doan is looking to break out of a scoring slump tonight. Doan has zero points in his past four games, including Thursday's game vs. New Jersey in which he played a season-low 17 shifts. Doan did not register a shot on goal in that game, something that has happened in only one other game this season.
Coyotes forward Peter Mueller has scored 38 goals since breaking into the NHL in 2007-08. None of those goals have come vs. Minnesota, the team Mueller grew up rooting for as a kid in Bloomington, Minn.
This is the first game between the teams since Coyotes defenseman Ed Jovanovski delivered a hard check on Minnesota's Andrew Ebbett on Dec. 7. The hit landed Ebbett on the bench for four games with a concussion and Jovanovski on the NHL suspension list for two games.
"I understand what the league is doing, cracking down on head shots... That’s important, but I’ve always been a physical guy and I’ve played clean my whole career... I’m itching to get back."