Wild, Coyotes put winning streaks on the line
Monday, 12.07.2009 / 7:00 PMWILD (13-12-3) at COYOTES (17-11-1)
Minnesota 6-2-2; Phoenix 6-3-1
Second of four meetings this season. The Wild will attempt to pay back the Coyotes for their 3-2 win in Minnesota on Nov. 18. Antti Miettinen had tied the score with 4:58 left in the third period, but Scottie Upshall responded just 19 seconds later with the decisive goal for the Coyotes.
The season has completely turned around for Minnesota since that loss to Phoenix. The Wild have won six of seven and enter Monday on a five-game winning streak that has them over .500 for the first time after a 3-9-0 start. They still have a ways to go in order to re-enter the playoff picture, however. The Coyotes are already there, sitting sixth in the Western Conference standings.
Minnesota's surge began with a home-and-home sweep of Colorado, which the Wild face again on Wednesday. They followed that up with an overtime win against Nashville, a shootout victory over Anaheim and Saturday's 5-3 triumph over the Predators in a game that wasn't as close as the final score would indicate. They made it 5-1 on an Eric Belanger power-play goal early in the third.
"Five-on-five, we have really improved over the last 10 or 12 games," said Andrew Brunette, who registered a goal and an assist. "I think it is contagious. When you get enough guys doing the right things everybody falls in line.
"We are getting scoring opportunities and goals from each line over the last 10 games. The big thing is we are getting more pucks on net. We are more aggressive on the forecheck. We have done a real good job of cycling the puck."
Phoenix is flying high as well, on a four-game winning streak of its own. The Coyotes will go for their season-best fifth straight Monday. This will also be the finish of a three-game homestand before they hit the road for five of their next six. Goaltending, defense and timely scoring have led Phoenix to three consecutive one-goal victories, the latest 3-2 over Ottawa on Saturday.
"I think we had a rough month in November and it looks like we're bouncing back here in early December," center Daniel Winnik said. "I think we're just growing as a group."
Minnesota captain and leading scorer Mikko Koivu
has three goals and six points in his last three games, and nine points in his last five. Brunette has seven points in three games and nine points in five. Miettinen has six goals in as many games after scoring just one in his first 19 contests.
Phoenix forwards Petr Prucha and Taylor Pyatt
each have goals in consecutive games, after combining for three goals all season prior to that. Ilya Bryzgalov has won his last four starts, posting a .940 save percentage over that span.
Bruising forward Cal Clutterbuck
has been hit hard himself – by the flu – and could miss Monday's game for the Wild. Definitely out are defenseman Brent Burns and forwards Pierre-Marc Bouchard
and Petr Sykora, all suffering from concussions and on injured reserve.
Coyotes forward Peter Mueller is questionable with an upper-body injury. Defenseman Kurt Sauer
remains on injured reserve suffering from headaches.
Phoenix defenseman Ed Jovanovski returned from an injury absence to score against Ottawa and is fourth on the team in scoring with 14 points despite missing 10 games this season.
"It was nice to come back and contribute," Jovanovski said. "When you come back you're working to get stronger, and that's what I'm trying to do right now."
These are teams that win by getting contributions from up and down the lineup, and that's what has been happening for both of late.