ST. PAUL --
With one game to play, the Phoenix Coyotes
control their own destiny when it comes to taking home the Pacific Division title.
It's quite simple: A win Saturday for the Coyotes -- either in regulation, overtime or a shootout -- is enough to win the division and capture the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference for the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The title would be the first-ever division crown for the Coyotes.
Phoenix holds a one point lead over both Los Angeles and San Jose heading into the season's final day. If the Coyotes lose to Minnesota in regulation, Phoenix could tumble all the way from third to eighth in the West. The Kings and Sharks play each other in San Jose in a game that should start around the time Phoenix's game ends.
Los Angeles won the season series with the Coyotes while Phoenix edged San Jose -- meaning the Coyotes will be pulling for the home team Saturday night.
"It's an honor and a privilege to be in the playoffs but our goal is to win the division, which we've never done here in Phoenix," Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle
said following a 4-1 win Friday at St. Louis. "It's something that we have to embrace and get those two points."
Of course, beating suddenly-improved Wild will not be easy. Each of Minnesota's last seven opponents are teams that are playoff bound. The Wild's record over that stretch: 4-2-1. Overall, the Wild have won four of five and have generally made life miserable for teams looking to improve or secure its playoff standing.
"It's a different kind of pressure. For a lot of our players, they know they're playing for jobs," said Wild coach Mike Yeo
following practice Friday. "When you're playing for your job, you're going to feel some pressure. It's not team oriented, but it's personal pressure guys are putting on themselves."
Each of Minnesota's last four games has gone to the shootout, with the only loss over that stretch coming in Nashville on Tuesday night.
The Wild will dress its 47th different player of the season Saturday as defenseman Nate Prosser
was suspended Friday for headbutting Chicago's Jamal Mayers
on Thursday night in a 2-1 Wild victory. He will be replaced by former University of North Dakota defenseman Chay Genoway
, who will make his NHL debut this evening and become the 15th rookie and 10th player to make his big-league debut for the Wild this season.
remains injured and will not play with an upper-body injury, and because the Wild reassigned Tyler Cuma
following the win Thursday over the Blackhawks, the team needed to recall another defenseman. This time it will be Kris Fredheim
, who played in two games for Minnesota back in November.
Here are the projected lineups for both teams Saturday:
- Mikko Koivu
- Devin Setoguchi
- Kyle Brodziak
- Darroll Powe
- Erik Christensen
- Nick Johnson
- Warren Peters
- Stephane Veilleux
- Marco Scandella
- Justin Falk
- Kris Fredheim
- Martin Hanzal
- Radim Vrbata
- Antoine Vermette
- Shane Doan
- Daymond Langkow
- Gilbert Brule
Taylor Pratt - Boyd Gordon
- Lauri Korpikoski
- Derek Morris
- Oliver Ekman-Larsson
Rostslav Klesla - Michel Rozsival