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Game #70 Preview: Arizona at Winnipeg

Grabner slated to return to lineup for first time since Jan. 30, Kuemper starts, four-point wild-card swing

by Alex Kinkopf @AEKinkopf / Game Preview

GAME #70: ARIZONA (33-28-8) at WINNIPEG (35-28-6)

5:00 PM MST - Bell MTS Place | Winnipeg, MB

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

Radio: Fox Sports 910 AM Phoenix (Bob Heethuis)

Referees: Tim Peel #20, Kyle Rehman #10

Linesmen: Julien Fournier #56, Kiel Murchison #79

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ARIZONA AT WINNIPEG

The Coyotes complete their three-game road trip tonight when they take on the Winnipeg Jets at Bell MTS Place, marking the second of the teams' three scheduled meetings this season.

Winnipeg will visit Gila River Arena for the regular season finale on April 4.

If you're one for match-ups with playoff implications, tonight's your game. For the Coyotes, who are coming off of a 3-2 loss to the Calgary Flames on Friday, this is about as close as it gets to being 'must-win' territory.

"As a team, obviously we know what's at stake, it's a huge game, you've got to play like it's Game 7," said head coach Rick Tocchet. "I think every guy on our team has played a big game before in a pressure situation, so just kind of use those memories of what you did, or how you relaxed yourself during pressure situations, that's what it comes down to."

The Jets are coming off of a 4-0 win over the Vegas Golden Knights on Friday and are now 2-0-0 on their current three-game home stand, which comes to a close tonight. They have won each of their last five home games dating back to February 16.

Overall, Winnipeg has won three of its last four games and earned points in four of its last five (3-1-1) to currently sit in a points tie (76) with the Nashville Predators and Vancouver Canucks for the Western Conference's second wild-card spot.

"We're late in the year playing one of the biggest games for a lot of guys this year, or last couple of years for some guys," Tocchet added. "I think that's important for us and the franchise."

Darcy Kuemper will make his third-straight start tonight, Tocchet confirmed following the team's optional morning skate.

Michael Grabner and Christian Fischer are expected to return to the lineup to replace Conor Garland (week-to-week) and Barrett Hayton.

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THREE THINGS

WILD-CARD WATCH: As far as the current five-team battle goes for the Western Conference's two wild-card playoff spots, the Coyotes and Jets are the only two active this evening. Tonight presents a massive four-point swing between Winnipeg (76) and Arizona (74), who are ranked fourth and fifth respectively. A win would move the Coyotes even in points with the Jets, while a loss would put them in a four-point rut.

GRABNER GOES: Michael Grabner will play tonight for the first time since January 30, when he logged 16 shifts and 11:22 TOI in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Kings. No stranger to late-season playoff pushes and postseason situations, the Coyotes will look for an added spark from the well-rested veteran winger in the same bulding where he began his professional career in 2007 as a member of the AHL's Manitoba Moose. "Grabs is a terrific human being and a great pro," said head coach Rick Tocchet. "He understands the circumstances and he'll be ready to go."

MAKE 'EM COUNT: Scoring may be hard to come by tonight as the Coyotes and Jets, sound defensive clubs, rank as two of the 13 teams in the league that allow fewer than an average of three goals to their opponents this year. Arizona is third in the league with a 2.59 GAA while Winnipeg is 12th with a 2.85 GAA.

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LAST TIME AROUND

OCTOBER 15, 2019 - ARIZONA (4) at WINNIPEG (2)

The Coyotes fell into the game's first deficit but responded with four consecutive goals to rebound for a 4-2 win over the Jets in the teams' previous meeting on October 15 at Winnipeg's Bell MTS Place.

Conor Garland tied the game, 1-1, late in the first period before the Coyotes opened the gates for three goals in the second period - two of which came off the stick of Christian Dvorak , the other Nick Schmaltz .

Darcy Kuemper stopped 38 of the 40 shots he faced in the win.

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NUMBER TO KNOW

TWENTY-THREE (23)

Oliver Ekman-Larsson comes into the night as the Coyotes' road scoring leader with 23 points (6G, 17A) in opposing buildings this season, which is a new career-high mark for the 28-year-old defenseman.

The Coyotes' captain, having registered an overall total of 30 points so far this season (9G, 21A), is one goal shy of registering his seventh consecutive 10-goal season. Should he do so, he would become the first defenseman in franchise history to accomplish that feat.

Ekman-Larsson has 19 points (8G, 11A) in 22 career games against the Jets. He assisted on the Coyotes' first two goals during the teams' previous match-up in October.

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QUICK HITS

  • Taylor Hall has 21 points (7G, 14A) in 17 career games against the Jets.
  • Winnipeg is 23-8-1 this season when scoring the first goal of a game.
  • Oliver Ekman-Larsson comes into the night with a three-game point streak (2G, 3A).
  • Blake Wheeler has 19 points (8G, 11A) in eight career games against the Coyotes.
  • The Coyotes are 22-1-4 this season when leading after two periods of play.
  • Darcy Kuemper ranks second in the NHL in GAA (2.19) and SV% (.929).
  • Winnipeg is 11-6-3 this season when playing on two or more days rest.
  • Arizona owns an 18-13-1-3 all-time record against Winnipeg.

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Lead Photo Credit: Jonathan Kozub - NHLI via Getty Images // Footer Photo Credit: Darcy Finley - NHLI via Getty Images // GIF Highlight Footage: Fox Sports Arizona

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