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Game #37 Preview: Arizona vs. Minnesota

Coyotes look for 'better energy' at home tonight against the Wild to protect Pacific Division lead

by Alex Kinkopf @AEKinkopf / Game Preview

GAME #37: ARIZONA (20-12-4) vs. MINNESOTA (16-14-5)

7:30 PM MST Gila River Arena | Glendale, AZ

TV: Fox Sports Arizona (Matt McConnell, Tyson Nash, Todd Walsh, Jody Jackson)

Radio: Fox Sports 910 AM Phoenix (Bob Heethuis, Paul Bissonnette)

Referees: Jake Brenk #26, Ian Walsh #29

Linesmen: Jonny Murray #95, Greg Devorski #54

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ARIZONA VS. MINNESOTA

The Coyotes host the Minnesota Wild tonight at Gila River Arena, marking the final of the teams' three scheduled meetings this season.

Arizona will play its next three games on the road following tonight's contest.

Coming off of a 3-2 win over the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday, the Coyotes play their final home game ahead of the holiday break; they are 8-8-1 at Gila River Arena this season.

The team held a practice on Wednesday afternoon in return from San Jose, Taylor Hall 's first full practice with the club. Hall, who set up Arizona's game-winning goal on Tuesday, will make his home debut tonight.

"I think Taylor needed it just to get out there with the team in that [practice] setting, get the body moving again," head coach Rick Tocchet said. "We have to figure out a way to get better energy at home and I think practicing the way we did yesterday is going to help us for tonight."

The Wild are coming off of a 3-2 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday and are 0-2-0 on their current three-game road trip, which comes to a close tonight.

Minnesota, despite struggling on their current trip, has earned points in 14 of its past 17 games (10-3-4) and recently went on an 11-game point streak (8-0-3) from November 14 - December 5, a run which began during the teams' previous meeting.

"They've been on a great roll for the last month," Tocchet noted of tonight's opponent. "They're back in it, they're a dangerous team."

Darcy Kuemper will make his 25th start of the season tonight, Tocchet confirmed after the team's optional morning skate. Tocchet also mentioned that a couple of guys are a bit banged up, opening the possibility that Christian Fischer could return to the lineup.

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THREE THINGS

PACIFIC PUSH: Entering the night, only four points separate the top four teams in the Pacific Division. The Coyotes continue to maintain first place with 44 points, while the Vegas Golden Knights (43), Edmonton Oilers (42), and Calgary Flames (40) sit close behind. Vegas plays at the Vancouver Canucks tonight and Calgary hosts the Montreal Canadiens. Edmonton does not play this evening.

CENTRAL FOCUS: Four of the Coyotes' next six games will come against Central Division opponents: Minnesota, Nashville, Dallas, and St. Louis. Arizona is 6-2-1 against Central Division opponents this season, its only two regulation losses coming to the Wild on November 9 and 14. Minnesota is currently in a tie for fifth place in the Central.

STAYING STINGY: The Coyotes have held their opponents to two goals in each of their last three games and sit second in the NHL with a 2.33 goals-against per game average. Only the Dallas Stars (80) and New York Islanders (80) have allowed fewer goals this season than the Coyotes' 84. Darcy Kuemper started each of those aforementioned three games and comes into tonight's contest ranked second in the NHL in GAA (1.97) and SV% (.935).

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LAST TIME AROUND

NOVEMBER 14, 2019 - ARIZONA (2) at MINNESOTA (3)

The Coyotes bounced back from a pair of deficits but were unable to put the finishing touches on their comeback effort in the teams' previous meeting, a 3-2 loss to the Wild at Minnesota's Xcel Energy Center on November 14.

Conor Garland connected in the second period to tie the score, 1-1, and Lawson Crouse struck in the third to again tie the game, 2-2. The Wild posted the eventual game-winning goal with 7:49 left in regulation.

Antti Raanta stopped 31 of the 34 shots he faced in the loss.

Arizona is 0-2-0 against Minnesota this season.

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NUMBER TO KNOW

TEN (10)

Carl Soderberg became the second Coyotes player to hit double digits in goals scored this season when he buried his 10th of the year in the first period of Tuesday's 3-2 win over the San Jose Sharks.

The power forward has 10 assists to complement his 10 goals, ranking him fourth on the team in points (20) behind only Christian Dvorak (21), Nick Schmaltz (24), and Clayton Keller (24).

Conor Garland (12) is the only Coyotes player with more goals than Soderberg this season.

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QUICK HITS

  • Christian Dvorak leads the Coyotes in home scoring with 12 points (4G, 8A).
  • The Wild have earned 24 points since November 14, the most of any NHL team during that span.
  • Phil Kessel has 17 points (5G, 12A) in 20 career games against the Wild.
  • Minnesota has played 22 road games (7-13-2), the most of any NHL team thus far.
  • Vinnie Hinostroza has totaled five assists in his last three games.
  • Mikko Koivu has 35 points (9G, 26A) in 43 career games against the Coyotes.
  • Arizona owns a 26-31-3-4 all-time record against Minnesota.

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Lead Photo Credit: Norm Hall - NHLI via Getty Images // Footer Photo Credit: Norm Hall - NHLI via Getty Images // GIF Highlight Footage: Fox Sports Arizona

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