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Surging Coyotes visit Minnesota

by Dan Rosen
COYOTES (36-19-5) at WILD (29-25-4)

Last 10: Phoenix 8-2-0; Minnesota 5-4-1.

Season Series: This is the final meeting of the season between the clubs. Phoenix has won the three previous games all in regulation.

Big Story: In continuing with their theme as the story of the year in the NHL, the Coyotes have won seven of their last eight games to fourth in the Western Conference. They have already won as many games (36) as they did all of last season, and they still have 22 to go. They have owned the Wild this season, outscoring them by a combined 11-6 in their three wins.

Team Scope:

Coyotes: After getting shutout in Dallas on Saturday night, the Coyotes showed their resiliency by blowing out Edmonton, 6-1, on Monday night thanks to a five-point night from Matthew Lombardi. He had two goals and three assists while Robert Lang had a goal and two assists. The five points are an eighth of what Lombardi has produced in 56 games this season. Lombardi didn't have a point in the five previous games.

"I think we're proud of what we've done so far, but we really don't want to sit back and look at it like that," Lombardi said. "We've got a long ways to go here. We're trying to build something here and our goal is to make the playoffs."

Wild: The Wild have won two straight and five of their last seven since a four-game winless streak (0-3-1) from Jan. 14-21. Goalie Niklas Backstrom, who has sat out the last six games with a back injury and then an illness, could be back between the pipes Wednesday night. The Wild went 4-2 without him. Backstrom has practiced the last two days, but his status will be determined following the morning skate.

"Everything is good so far," Backstrom told "I have been skating four times, and so far everything is good and I think I'm ready to play. It's up to the coach to make the decision to see who plays, but I feel good out there."

Who's Hot: It's only one game, but nobody entering this one is hotter than Lombardi, who had his first career five-point game Monday night. He was switched from center to the wing for Monday's game and obviously that move by coach Dave Tippett worked out. He played with Robert Lang and Shane Doan.

Injury Report: The Coyotes are without Scottie Upshall (knee). The Wild could get Backstrom back and Chuck Kobasew (out since Dec. 26 with a left knee injury) is skating again and close to returning. Andrew Brunette hasn't practiced the last two days with a knee problem, but he's expected to play. Harding's injured hip makes him questionable and Shane Hnidy missed Tuesday's practice because he was sick.

Stat Pack: The Coyotes have only outscored the opposition, 21-16, over its last eight games but they are 7-1. They won three times in a shootout and once in overtime. … Bryzgalov stopped 70 of 76 shots in the three previous meetings against Minnesota. … Both Phoenix and Minnesota will open the 2010-11 season with two games in Europe. The Coyotes will play Boston in Prague while the Wild will play Carolina in Helsinki.

Puck Drop: "It's five or six teams fighting for the same playoff spot and that's a tough thing, but the only thing you can worry about is if you win enough games you are going to be there. For us, it was a tough start. The first month we didn't play the way we can play, so after that there has been a lot of climbing for us. We have to avoid any more bad streaks. We can't afford to lose three or four in a row." -- Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom

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