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Coyotes and Wild look to bounce back

by Matthew Mankiewich

COYOTES (17-13-7) at WILD (17-15-5)


Last 10 -- Phoenix 4-5-1, Minnesota 5-4-1

Season series -- It's a split so far halfway through the four-game set this season, though the Wild stopped a five-game losing streak against Phoenix with a 4-2 win on Dec. 9.

Big story -- The visiting team has won the first two matchups this season, which creates an interesting scenario for both teams. The Coyotes have lost three of four on the road while the Wild have gone 3-6-1 in their last 10 at home. Inconsistency has been frustrating fans of both teams as they struggle to stay in playoff contention, as both suffered letdown losses on New Year's Eve after big wins.

Team scope:

Coyotes -- Since their seven-game winning streak in November, the Coyotes haven't been able to string two wins together. Fortunately, they haven't put more than two losses in a row either, contributing to a 6-8-2 record since Nov. 23. The task at hand is to end a road funk in which they've lost three of four, most recently digging themselves too big a hole in St. Louis on New Year's Eve, going down 4-0 before scoring three third-period goals in a 4-3 loss. Blame Jaroslav Halak for much of the slow start as the 'Yotes outshot the Blues 14-6 in the first period but left the ice trailing 1-0.

"We created some chances," coach Dave Tippett said. "The one chance they got, they capitalized on. We had a couple of chances very similar to that and didn't capitalize on. If we get a lead in that first period, it could be a different outcome. We feel like we played better."

Wild -- Things were looking good for the Wild during a 4-1-1 stretch, with a home-and-home sweep of the Flames, a solid win in Colorado and a stirring come-from-behind home victory over the Sharks finally silencing the boos coming from the rafters of Xcel Energy Center. But the boobirds were back Friday night as the injury-decimated Predators ended a five-game slide with a 4-1 win.

"They were clearly more desperate than we were. There was clearly more urgency in their game," Wild coach Todd Richards said in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune of the Predators. "I don't know. Is it the 5 o'clock game? Is it coming off a big, emotional win [over San Jose]? The consistency thing in our game is what we've been trying to solve all year."

Who's hot -- Coyotes captain Shane Doan has back-to-back two-goal games, the 36th and 37th in his NHL career, and five goals in his last three. He has a five-game point streak going and has been off the board only once in his last 12 games. Scottie Upshall has five points in his last two, and has 12 points in 12 career games against the Wild with a plus-6 rating. Defenseman Keith Yandle tied a career high with three assists against the Kings and has six points in his last five games. .,. For Minnesota, Chuck Kobasew has scored goals in three straight games.

Injury report -- With forwards Martin Hanzal and Radim Vrbata returning to the lineup Friday, the Coyotes are whole for the time being. … Wild defenseman Marek Zidlicky is out indefinitely with a shoulder injury suffered against the Sharks on Wednesday, while top hitter Cal Clutterbuck sat out Friday's game with a "nagging injury."

Stat pack -- Doan's first goal on Friday was his 700th NHL point, all with Winnipeg/Phoenix. … Minnesota's Andrew Brunette has 38 points in 41 career regular-season games against the Coyotes. … The Coyotes had allowed an NHL-low 20 first-period goals through 34 games but have given up seven in their last three. … After starting the season a healthy 8-4-2 on the road, the 'Yotes have gone 2-4-1 away from Arena.

Puck drop -- "It wasn't to the level I know we can play at. To me, the players set the bar the other night against San Jose. So it's a level they can get to. Now, it's getting that every single night." -- Richards in the Star-Tribune on the Wild's performance against the Predators on Friday night

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