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Wild-Coyotes Preview @NHL

Olli Jokinen's return was a major lift for the Phoenix Coyotes in their last game. The club could use another strong performance from the veteran forward with the Minnesota Wild coming to town.

After scoring two goals in his first game in two weeks, Jokinen looks to help the Coyotes snap a nine-game losing streak against the Wild when the clubs square off in Phoenix on Thursday night.

Jokinen, Phoenix's second-leading scorer with 20 points in 22 games, missed six straight with a shoulder injury before returning Wednesday night.

He scored a go-ahead goal midway through the first period and the game-tying goal with four seconds left in the second, helping the Coyotes (13-13-2) to a 5-3 road win over Dallas.

Jokinen, in his 11th NHL season and first with Phoenix, was a welcome addition for the Coyotes, who split six games without him but had dropped the last two, including an ugly 7-1 loss to Chicago on Sunday night.

Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky praised his young team for a far better effort Wednesday.

"I was really proud how our team responded," he said. "We came in here, after we got beat pretty bad the last game, and I thought our guys worked hard."

Gretzky hopes his club can build on that win against a Minnesota team that's dominated Phoenix lately. The Wild (15-10-1) have outscored the Coyotes 28-10 in winning the last nine meetings, including two this season by a combined 7-2.

"It's a hard team for us. They play us really well, they play us with confidence," Gretzky told the Coyotes' official Web site. "They play a tremendous system, and they don't break down whatsoever.

"We have to play a flawless game against them. We have to be disciplined and stay out of the penalty box. They play with a great deal of patience, and they play a hard game."

Minnesota goalie Niklas Backstrom is largely responsible for the Wild's recent success in the series. He's won all eight of his career games against the Coyotes with three shutouts and a 1.13 goals-against average.

The Coyotes are well aware of their struggles against the third-year goalie.

"We're going to have to make it difficult for him to see the puck and get second- and third-chance opportunities," Phoenix right wing Shane Doan said. "That's really the difference. We haven't gotten enough of them against him."

Backstrom may need to continue his dominance of Phoenix if Minnesota continues to struggle offensively. The Wild have been held to one goal in suffering back-to-back losses.

"We're not getting a lot of chances," Wild coach Jacques Lemaire said after his club lost 1-0 to Nashville on Saturday. "We're not getting a lot of pucks at the net. When we do, we're looking for rebounds, but we're not getting to the puck and getting that second shot."

The return of right wing Marian Gaborik could be just what Minnesota needs, but though he returned to practice Tuesday for the first time since Oct. 15, it looks like his return is still a ways away.

Gaborik has missed 24 straight games with an undisclosed lower-body injury.

"Hopefully I can gradually keep picking it up and get to the point where I can jump back into the game," Gaborik said. "I'm looking forward to that."

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