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Top Western wild card on line for Wild, Coyotes

by Dan Myers

WILD (37-26-11) at COYOTES (36-26-12)


Last 10: Minnesota 3-4-3; Phoenix 7-2-1

Season series: The Minnesota Wild and Phoenix Coyotes have split two games. The Wild won the most recent, 4-1 on Jan. 9.

Big story: With a regulation win, the Coyotes can jump ahead of the Wild for the top Western Conference wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Minnesota has 85 points, one ahead of Phoenix.

Team Scope:

Wild: Minnesota is reeling, having lost two in a row and four out of five. The Wild are 4-5-4 in March and have been embarrassed in each of their past two games, losing 5-2 Wednesday to the Vancouver Canucks and 5-1 Thursday to the St. Louis Blues.

Minnesota, which has won two of its past eight games, has seen solid footing in the wild-card race become tenuous.

"This game obviously is going to have an awful lot of importance, No. 1, for the standings," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "But also for us to get our game going here, to get some wins, to get feeling good about ourselves. It's going to be a great challenge. I hope we look forward to this."

Coyotes: Phoenix has lost twice in its past seven games, with one in overtime. The Coyotes woke up the morning of March 15 six points behind the Wild for the top wild-card spot and two back of the Dallas Stars for the second wild card; Dallas and Minnesota each had a game in hand.

Now, after a 2-0-1 road trip against the New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins and New Jersey Devils, the Coyotes can leap the Wild and win the season series.

"It's huge," Coyotes captain Shane Doan said. "We were disappointed obviously that we got that lead in the Rangers game with three minutes to go. We'd like to get those points. But we didn't trail on the entire trip. We were able to find ways to get points on this trip."

Who's hot: Wild forward Zach Parise scored his 25th goal against the Blues. It was his 47th point of the season; each are second on the team behind forward Jason Pominville. Parise has a point in 14 of his past 20 games. … Coyotes backup goaltender Thomas Greiss won the final two games of the road trip, stopping 23 of 25 shots against the Penguins before making 26 saves in a 3-2 shootout win against the Devils.

Injury report: Wild forward Jason Zucker (quad), defensemen Keith Ballard (groin) and Clayton Stoner (knee) and goaltenders Josh Harding (illness) and Niklas Backstrom (abdominal) are out. … Coyotes goalie Mike Smith (lower body) and defenseman David Schlemko (lower body) are out.

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