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At the Rink: Wild at Coyotes

by Jerry Brown / NHL.com

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Arizona Coyotes will be gunning for their first 4-0-0 start Thursday when they host the Minnesota Wild. That's exciting enough for fans who didn't expect much from a team that finished 29th in the League standings in 2014-15.

But it's more about the way the Coyotes have played in the first three games that have them buzzing: They haven't trailed at any point in their four games; five of their 10 goals have come in the first period, allowing them to take control of games early; they've outscored their four opponents 10-2.

Goaltender Mike Smith has three wins, a .981 save percentage (104 saves on 106 shots) and recorded his first shutout since March 4, 2014, in a 4-0 win Wednesday against the Anaheim Ducks. That's from a goalie who won 14 times in 62 games in 2014-15.

The Coyotes did not practice Thursday. Smith might sit in favor of backup Anders Lindback, who would make his Arizona debut.

Smith might like to play because he will be opposing his former teammate, Devan Dubnyk, who will return to Arizona for the first time since being traded to Minnesota in January. After leaving Arizona, Dubnyk led Minnesota to the Stanley Cup Playoffs and became a Vezina Trophy finalist.

"I attribute a lot of the success last year to the way the guys [in Arizona], the coaches, the organization brought me in and were excited to have me," Dubnyk told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

While the goalies provide interesting stories, it's the Coyotes' younger players that have been standouts. Rookie Max Domi has two goals and two assists in three games. Rookie Anthony Duclair on Wednesday became the first Coyotes rookie since Daniel Carcillo on April 4, 2008 with a hat trick. Duclair's five points leads NHL rookies.

Duclair and Domi bring an element of speed Arizona has lacked and something coach Dave Tippett is capitalizing on.

"We've been trying to play fast," he said. "Fast out of our zone, fast through the neutral zone and fast to their net. And once we've gotten a lead we've played real solid."

Center Martin Hanzal assisted on all three of Duclair's goals Wednesday and has six assists in three games. Coming off back surgery in March, Hanzal is off to the best start of his career and having no trouble keeping up with the speed of linemates Duclair and Tobias Rieder.

"Hanzal has been great. He's making a lot of space for us," Duclair said. "[Rieder] and I like to use our speed a lot and he's giving us a chance to do that."

The Wild are not only 2-0-0, but they are the first Coyotes opponent who has won a game this season. The Coyotes have beaten the Kings, Pittsburgh Penguins and Ducks, who are a combined 0-8-1 to start the season.

The Wild haven't played since beating the St. Louis Blues at home Oct. 10 and were in Arizona Wednesday while the Coyotes were in Anaheim.

Right wing Justin Fontaine, who missed the first two games of the season with an upper-body injury, will make his season debut for the Wild. So will defenseman Nate Prosser, who will replace Christian Folin in the lineup.

Here are the projected lineups:

WILD

Zach Parise - Mikael Granlund - Jason Pominville

Jason Zucker - Mikko Koivu - Nino Niederreiter

Thomas Vanek - Charlie Coyle - Justin Fontaine

Chris Porter - Erik Haula - Ryan Carter

Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon

Jonas Brodin - Matt Dumba

Marco Scandella - Nate Prosser

Devan Dubnyk

Darcy Kuemper

Injured: Tyler Graovac (lower body)

Scratched: Christian Folin, Niklas Backstrom

COYOTES

Max Domi - Antoine Vermette - Mikkel Boedker

Tobias Rieder - Martin Hanzal - Anthony Duclair

Kyle Chipchura - Brad Richardson - Shane Doan

Jordan Martinook - Boyd Gordon - Steve Downie

Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Michael Stone

Nicklas Grossman - Zbynek Michalek

Klas DahlbeckConnor Murphy

Mike Smith

Anders Lindback

Injured: None

Scratched: Stefan Elliott, Joe Vitale, John Scott

Status report: Dahlbeck took a shot off his right knee Wednesday in Anaheim but was able to return and is expected to play Thursday. … Jordan Schroeder, who played for the Wild on Saturday, was sent to Iowa of the American Hockey League to open a roster spot for Fontaine.

Who's hot: It took Smith nine games to get to three wins last season. He now has 17 of his 28 career shutouts with Arizona. … Duclair joins Teemu Selanne (1992-93), Peter Mueller (2007-08) and Carcillo (2007-08) as rookies with the Winnipeg Jets/Coyotes franchise with hat tricks. … Hanzal's NHL career high for assists is 27, which he had as a rookie in 2007-08.

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