By Dave Vest
The Coyotes will look to snap a season-high four-game losing streak tonight when they host the
Minnesota Wild at Jobing.com Arena. The puck drops at 7 p.m. (Arizona time).
Phoenix (33-25-9) will enter the game in seventh place in Western Conference standings but just two points behind Pacific-Division leading Dallas.
Backup Jason LaBarbera
will start in goal in place of Mike Smith
. It will be LaBarbera’s first start since Feb. 13 at Vancouver.
“We’re putting ‘Barbs' in because we think he can win the game for us and (it will) give 'Smitty' some rest and time to work on his game,” Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said.
LaBarbera, who has posted a 1-0-1 record vs. Minnesota in his career with a 3.97 goals-against average, says he is thrilled the coaches have turned to him to help the team get out of its funk (see PODCASTS
The Coyotes have fallen behind in the first period of every game during their losing streak. In fact, oppponents have outscored Phoenix 8-1 in the first 20 minutes in those games.
Winger Ray Whitney
continues to lead the Coyotes offensively but he needs help. Radim Vrbata
, the team’s leading goal scorer with 30, has not lit the lamp in the past seven games, and captain Shane Doan
has not scored in the past five games.
|Photo by Getty Images.
Minnesota (28-29-10) will enter the game with a five-game losing streak (0-4-1) and eight points out of eighth place in the Western Conference standings.
The Wild have been outscored 23-5 during the losing streak.
"I can assure you that these guys care," Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo told reporters after the team’s 7-1 loss at Colorado on Tuesday. "These guys are hurting right now. It's real hard for guys emotionally to come to the rink and get your mind straight with what we're going through right now. If you want to get excited about something, I can guarantee this is a group that will keep on fighting."
Injuries have derailed Minnesota’s season; the Wild have had an NHL-most 44 players skate this season, surpassing the team record of 40 set in 2009-10. Captain Mikko Koivu, fellow forwards Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Guillaume Latendresse and Cal Clutterbuck and goalie Niklas Backstrom all are sidelined.
Goalie Josh Harding is expected to start tonight after relieving rookie Matt Hackett on Tuesday.