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Few goals likely as WIld host Coyotes

by Adam Kimelman /

COYOTES (11-9-0) at WILD (7-11-2)

Last 10 -- Coyotes 5-5-0; Wild 4-4-2

Season series -- This is the first of four meetings between the teams this season. Minnesota won three of the four games in 2008-09. In their most recent meeting, last Jan. 13, Owen Nolan, Andrew Brunette, Mikko Koivu and Cal Clutterbuck each had a goal and an assist in the Wild's 6-3 victory at the Xcel Energy Center.

Big story -- First goal wins? The Wild and Coyotes are among the lowest-scoring teams in the League, but both feature outstanding goaltending.

Team Scope:

Coyotes -- The Coyotes entered Tuesday's games 16th in the League killing penalties, and they've had ample time to work on it the last few games. They were whistled for 21 minutes in penalties in the first period Monday against TampaBay, including 17 minutes alone on defenseman Jim Vandermeer, who was given a boarding major and a game misconduct. They had 28 penalty minutes against Tampa, and 17 minutes the game before against Dallas. "We're always prepared to kill penalties," defenseman Adrian Aucoin told the ArizonaRepublic. "But any time, especially in the last few games, it seems we're taking penalties early in the game, and then a bunch of guys don't get as much ice time as they need."

Wild -- There's a fierce rivalry between Minnesota and Wisconsin college hockey teams, but Minnesota fans quickly have gotten behind a former Badger. Forward Robbie Earl had his first two NHL goals Thursday, and after starting the game on the fourth line, by the end he was taking shifts on the top line with Mikko Koivu and Andrew Brunette. "I was a Badger," Earl told reporters. "Now I'm in Gopherland. I love Minnesota,"

Who's hot -- In 13 games since being named Wild captain, Koivu has 3 goals and 13 points. Coyotes forward Scottie Upshall has 2 goals in his last five games, but that number could rise against the Wild -- in seven games against Minnesota, he has 7 points.

Injury report -- Wild forwards Chuck Kobasew and Benoit Pouliot are questionable due to upper-body injuries, while forward Petr Sykora remains out indefinitely due to a concussion. The Coyotes remain thin on the blue line as Zbynek Michalek and Ed Jovanovski are on injured reserve due to lower-body injuries. Centers Matthew Lombardi and Peter Mueller are questionable due to lower-body injuries.

Stat pack -- The Wild haven't lost to the Coyotes in Minnesota since Nov. 8, 2005, a span of seven games.... How can the Coyotes be 24th in the League in scoring at 2.45 goals per game but have a winning record? The fact that they're sixth in goals-allowed, also at 2.45 goals per game, is a big reason.

Puck drop -- Goals could be hard to come by in this one. Coyotes goalie Ilya Bryzgalov is third with a 2.04 goals-against average, while Minnesota's Niklas Backstrom is 23rd at 2.67. And the leading goal-scorer on the ice is Brunette with 7 goals. The Coyotes' leading goal-scorer is Upshall, with 6.

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