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Game #20 Preview: Arizona at Minnesota

Having earned points in six-straight road games (5-0-1), the Coyotes look to finish their road trip with a perfect 3-0-0 record.

by Alex Kinkopf @AEKinkopf / Game Preview

GAME #20: ARIZONA (11-6-2) at MINNESOTA (6-11-1)

6:00 PM MST - Xcel Energy Center | St. Paul, MN

TV: Fox Sports Arizona Plus (Matt Mcconnell, Tyson Nash, Todd Walsh)

Radio: Fox Sports 910 AM Phoenix (Bob Heethuis)

Referees: Chris Lee #26, Marc Joannette #25

Linesmen: Ryan Galloway #82, Jesse Marquis #86

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ARIZONA AT MINNESOTA

The Coyotes complete their three-game road trip tonight against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center, marking the second of the three scheduled meetings between the teams this season.

Minnesota will return to Gila River Arena on December 19 for the season series finale.

Following two shootout wins on Monday and Tuesday, the Coyotes became the first team in NHL history to defeat the previous two Stanley Cup champions (Washington Capitals, St. Louis Blues) on back-to-back nights on the road.

They had a day off in Minnesota on Wednesday before re-assembling for a morning skate ahead of tonight's contest.

"The recovery is not just physical, it's mental too," said head coach Rick Tocchet. "I think it's good to get away from the rink. We're trying to manage the rest, and I think the mental part of it too. We know we're in one tonight, it's a tough building to play in."

The Wild return home following a four-game road trip, where they posted a 2-2-0 record, and are coming off a 3-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday night. Minnesota has earned points in four consecutive home games at Xcel Energy Center (3-0-1); they have only lost once in regulation this season on home ice.

"They're a good hockey club, they're going to figure it out," said Tocchet of the Wild, who sit in last-place in the Central Division. "They're dangerous, and that's how we're going to approach tonight's game."

Antti Raanta will make his seventh start of the season. Tocchet mentioned that tonight's sixth defenseman, Aaron Ness or Ilya Lyubushkin , will come down to a game-time decision. The forward lines are expected to remain the same as they were Tuesday night in St. Louis.

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THREE THINGS

TOP OF THE CHARTS: Should the Coyotes win in any fashion tonight and the Edmonton Oilers lose in regulation to the Colorado Avalanche (7:00 P.M. MST - Rogers Place), Arizona would climb to claim first-place in the Pacific Division. It would mark the first time the Coyotes have been atop their division after the 20-game mark for the first time since the end of the 2011-12 season, when they were crowned Pacific Division champions.

RUDE VISITORS: Though the sample size is not quite yet substantial, the Coyotes have been very strong on the road this season. Arizona has earned points in nine of its 11 road games played thus far, posting a 7-2-2 record away from Gila River Arena. The Coyotes' seven road wins are tied with the St. Louis Blues for the second-most in the NHL; the Washington Capitals (9) are the only team with more. The team comes into the night with a six-game road point streak (5-0-1) along with a perfect 2-0-0 mark on their current three-game road trip.

NICK'S OFFENSIVE KNACK: Nick Schmaltz comes into the night as the Coyotes' leading scorer, registering 15 points (4G, 11A) in the team's 19 games played thus far. He is one of only two players (Dylan Larkin - Detroit Red Wings) to have recorded a point or have scored the game-deciding goal in every game that their team has earned a point. He is 3-for-3 in shootouts this season; all three of his shootout goals have served as game-deciders. He recorded an assist in the Coyotes' first meeting with the Wild this season on November 9.

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LAST TIME AROUND

November 9, 2019 - Arizona (3) vs. Minnesota (4)

The Coyotes came out on the losing end in the teams' first meeting of the season just five days ago, a 4-3 loss at Gila River Arena this past Saturday.

Despite operating with two separate two-goal leads courtesy first period goals from Michael Grabner and Jakob Chychrun , and a second period goal from Vinnie Hinostroza , the Coyotes couldn't counter the Wild's late-game push. Minnesota scored three unanswered goals to secure the win.

Darcy Kuemper made 20 saves in the loss; eight different Coyotes registered a point.

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NUMBER TO KNOW

SEVENTY-FIVE (75)

Nick Schmaltz has scored a goal or recorded an assist on six of the Coyotes' eight game-winning goals this season, directly involved in 75% of the team's crucial tallies. That ranks as the second-highest percentage in the NHL behind only the Edmonton Oilers' Leon Draisaitl (90.9%).

Though the Coyotes have not been credited with a game-winning goal through their two victories on their current road trip due to both wins coming via shootouts, Schmaltz has both of the team's game-deciding goals, scoring in the first rounds of each.

He is the only player in the NHL with three shootout game-deciding goals this season.

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QUICK HITS

  • The Coyotes are 7-1-0 this season when Carl Soderberg records a point this season and 8-1-2 when Clayton Keller records a point.
  • Phil Kessel has 16 points (5G, 11A) in 19 career games against the Wild.
  • The Wild rank first in the NHL in percentage of points (32.8%) scored by defensemen.
  • Derek Stepan is two assists away from 300 career NHL assists.
  • Arizona owns a 29-30-3-4 all-time record against Minnesota.

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Lead Photo Credit: David Berding - Getty Images // Footer Photo Credit: Bruce Kluckhon - Getty Images // GIF Highlight Footage: Fox Sports Arizona

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