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Coyotes try to build off home win, welcome in Wild

by Brian Hunter
WILD (24-21-3) at COYOTES (27-16-5)

Last 10: Minnesota 5-5-0; Phoenix 4-3-3

Season Series:
Third of four meetings this season. The Coyotes have won the first two, 3-2 in Minnesota on Nov. 18 and 2-0 in Phoenix on Dec. 7. Radim Vrbata had a goal and an assist in the first matchup and Ilya Bryzgalov stopped all 28 shots by the Wild in the second.

Big Story:
Phoenix welcomes physical defenseman Ed Jovanovski back to the lineup Saturday after he served a two-game suspension for an elbow to the head of New York Islanders forward John Tavares last weekend.

"It's not fun missing games and you want to be there for your teammates, but it’s one of those situations where I had to deal with the consequences and that's about it," he said.

Coyotes forward Scottie Upshall thought it was a big deal getting Jovanovski on the ice.

"I think we're a totally different team with Jovo in the lineup," he said. "We've missed him the last couple games. They were tough games and that’s when Jovo is at his best. He's a physical presence for us and he's a good skater and makes great plays. When the other team sees him in the lineup on the back end they know it's going to be a battle out there."

Team Scope:

After sweeping a four-game homestand that included a wild come-from-behind win over Chicago and impressive victories against Calgary, Pittsburgh and Vancouver, the good times came to a halt Thursday as Minnesota was blanked 1-0 in St. Louis. T.J. Oshie scored 26 seconds into the third period and Chris Mason won a goaltending duel with Josh Harding, who was terrific in making 36 saves.

"We battled, we competed," coach Todd Richards said. "I think we helped their cause a little bit -- too many turnovers."

Third-period goals by Daniel Winnik and Zbynek Michalek led Phoenix to an impressive 4-3 win over New Jersey on Thursday. The Coyotes jumped out to a 2-0 lead after the first period, as Matthew Lombardi and Peter Mueller lit the lamp, then recovered after the Devils tied the game in the second. Bryzgalov finished with 31 saves to win his matchup with Martin Brodeur.

"I thought the first period was a close period, we got two goals up, but it was a lot closer than that," coach Dave Tippett said. "(In the) second period, we didn't execute well with the puck. We couldn't catch up to the pace of the game, took some penalties and I think that was a good wake-up call for us. I like the way we pushed a little bit in the third. It was a tight third (period) and we managed to come up with a couple big plays to get us some goals."

Who's Hot:
Guillaume Latendresse had a four-point game for Minnesota against Pittsburgh and has nine points in his last six games. … Lombardi has taken over the Phoenix scoring lead with 29 points.

Injury Report:
Wild defenseman Clayton Stoner (groin) and forward Andrew Ebbett (neck) are day-to-day. Defenseman Brent Burns (concussion) and forwards Pierre-Marc Bouchard (concussion) and Chuck Kobasew (sprained ACL/MCL) are on injured reserve. … Coyotes defenseman Kurt Sauer (head) has not played since the season opener.

Stat Pack:
Minnesota goalie Niklas Backstrom is 9-3-0 with a 1.68 goals-against average against Phoenix, winning his first eight starts but losing three of the last four.

Puck Drop:
The win over the Devils snapped an 0-2-2 home skid for the Coyotes, who were money in the bank at Arena for most of the first three months of the season. They take a 17-7-2 record there into Saturday's matchup.

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