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Wild-Coyotes Preview

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The Minnesota Wild are trying to avoid their first three-game losing streak in nearly two months.

A matchup with the Phoenix Coyotes might help their cause.

The Wild look to defeat the Coyotes for the sixth consecutive time when the teams meet Thursday in Glendale, Ariz.

Minnesota (20-14-2) has been outscored 12-4 while losing its last two games after winning the previous four by a combined 16-8 margin. The Wild have not lost three straight games since dropping a season-high five in a row Oct. 24-Nov. 1.

They fell 8-3 at Dallas on Wednesday, matching an 8-3 defeat to Detroit on Nov. 16, 2001, for the most goals given up in franchise history.

The Wild trailed the Stars by only one goal early in the third period before allowing Dallas to pull away.

"When you look at the result, it was really ugly," Minnesota right wing Branko Radivojevic said. "We're not used to the other team scoring eight goals. Three goals in the first period is too much but we were still in the game."

While Minnesota has been struggling lately, it rarely has much trouble against Phoenix. The Wild have won five straight games over the Coyotes - including two this season - by a combined 14-5 margin.

Right wing Marian Gaborik has scored a goal in each game against the Coyotes (17-16-1) this season, giving him seven during a six-game goal streak against them. Gaborik, though, saw his season-high seven-game point streak end on Wednesday.

Goaltender Niklas Backstrom may be back in net for Minnesota on Thursday after Josh Harding allowed all eight goals on Wednesday.

Backstrom has allowed eight total goals in losing his last two starts, after going 5-1-0 with a 1.82 goals-against average in his previous six outings. He has also been in goal for each game of Minnesota's winning streak over the Coyotes, recording a 1.00 GAA and two shutouts in those five contests.

The Coyotes lost to Vancouver 2-1 in a shootout on Saturday, snapping their season high-tying four-game winning streak.

Zbynek Michalek tied the game with his first goal of the season for Phoenix, which has not lost consecutive games since dropping a season-high four in a row Nov. 28-Dec. 3.

"It's nice to see that they don't quit," Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky said. "We're down one-nothing to a stingy team and we scored a big goal to tie it. I'm very, very happy with our effort."

Phoenix has not had much luck at home this season. The Coyotes have scored just one goal in losing their last two home games, and have earned a NHL-worst 11 points in 14 home games.

Ilya Bryzgalov stopped 34 shots against the Canucks, and is 9-6-1 with a 2.09 GAA since being claimed off waivers from Anaheim on Nov. 17. Bryzgalov, though, has lost both of his career starts against the Wild. He made 25 saves Nov. 28 in a 3-1 defeat at Minnesota.

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