The Phoenix Coyotes have been trying to hold on to the second Western Conference wild-card position in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They return home after a three-game road trip looking ahead, not behind.
The Coyotes went 2-0-1 on their trip, and a victory against the visiting Minnesota Wild on Saturday (9 p.m. ET) will move them into the first wild-card spot, ahead of the slumping Wild. Phoenix won games against the Pittsburgh Penguins and New Jersey Devils with backup goaltender Thomas Greiss, who's likely to get the call against Minnesota in place of starter Mike Smith, who's out with a lower-body injury.
Minnesota comes to Arizona after a 5-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues that started a four-game road trip. The Wild have lost four of five and its once-comfortable lead on the Coyotes is reduced to one point.
All four of the wild-card contenders in the Eastern Conference play Saturday, two against each other. After the Washington Capitals play their afternoon game against the Boston Bruins at Verizon Center (12:30 p.m. ET), they're sure to be interested spectators when the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs face off at Air Canada Centre (7 p.m. ET; NHLN-US, CBC). The Columbus Blue Jackets, 2-1 losers at home to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday, visit the Carolina Hurricanes (7 p.m. ET).
Each of the four teams enters Saturday with 80 points. The Blue Jackets hold the first spot because they have more non-shootout wins than the Red Wings and Capitals; Detroit is second, ahead of Washington, for the same reason. Toronto has played two more games than each of the other three.
The Colorado Avalanche would clinch a playoff berth if they get at least one point against the San Jose Sharks or if the Dallas Stars lose to the St. Louis Blues in any fashion or if the Wild defeat the Coyotes in any fashion.
The idle Chicago Blackhawks would clinch a playoff berth if the Stars lose to the Blues in any fashion or if the Wild defeat the Coyotes in any fashion or if the Coyotes defeat the Wild in a shootout.
Here's a look at all of the action Saturday: