By Dave Vest
The Coyotes, rested after three days without a game, return to action tonight when they host the Minnesota Wild at Jobing.com Arena. The puck drops at 7 p.m. (Arizona time).
Phoenix (13-7-6) last played Sunday night in Anaheim when Ilya Bryzgalov
made 26 saves to key a 3-0 victory over the Ducks. Bryzgalov will make his 23rd start of the season against the Wild, a team the Coyotes beat 4-2 in Minnesota on Dec. 1 with backup Jason LaBarbera
Bryzgalov has allowed two goals or less in five of his last six starts, and has notched two shutouts in that span.
“(Bryzgalov) is the backbone of our team,” Head Coach Dave Tippett said. “We play a style that he realizes he can have success with. He's doing his part. He's a fantastic goaltender.”
The Coyotes have beaten the Wild five games in a row dating to the 2008-09 season, and have outscored Minnesota 18-10 in those games. Winger Scottie Upshall
has chipped in four of those 18 goals.
“We have to play sound in the offensive zone and we can’t give them too many opportunities,” Coyotes captain Shane Doan
said. “They are good on the rush so the onus is in making sure that we’re in their zone and we’re solid and not turning the puck over and giving them chances… if we can keep the puck in front of us, we’ll be OK.”
|The Coyotes beat Minnesota 4-2 on Dec. 1. Photo by Getty Images.
Rookie defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson
, whom the Coyotes recalled from the American Hockey League on Tuesday, will be in the lineup tonight. Ekman-Larsson notched eight points in 10 AHL games.
“He’s a young player who’s finding his way and I think those 10 games in the American (Hockey) League were very good for him," Tippett said. "I was talking to the coaches down there and they were very impressed with how he played, so we’ll see how he plays with us.
Minnesota (11-11-4) has lost seven of its past eight games and hasn’t tasted victory since Nov. 26.
A big problem for the Wild is scoring goals; they will enter the game ranked 24th in the NHL at 2.42 goals per game.
"We're working at it,” forward Matt Cullen told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “We're on the edge. It's starting to come. Hopefully, we'll get some pucks in the net. I mean, we need to, that's a big thing for us."
The Wild are slumping on the power play with just 1 goal in 29 chances over the past nine games.
Niklas Backstrom is expected to start in goal for Minnesota. He has lost four consecutive games and has allowed 19 goals during that slide.