One week ago, the Phoenix Coyotes
were two games away from the longest unbeaten streak in franchise history, completing an 11-0-1 February with a leap from 12th place in the Western Conference to the Pacific Division lead with 23 points in a month.
Just seven days later, everything is upside down. The Coyotes are in the midst of the longest pointless streak in coach Dave Tippett
's coaching tenure in Phoenix -- four games -- and face the prospect of their first five-game losing streak since February of 2009 when they host the Minnesota Wild
The Coyotes will start goalie Jason LaBarbera
tonight after Mike Smith
allowed two goals in the first four minutes of a 3-2 loss in Columbus on Tuesday. The Coyotes have five players still on the injured list and none will play tonight, with enforcer Paul Bissonnette
expected to replace Gilbert Brule
The Coyotes are still seventh in the West and just two points behind Dallas for the Pacific Division lead, but are just one point ahead of San Jose, Los Angeles and Colorado, and need a win to stop the bleeding.
Minnesota knows all about losing streaks. The Wild are 0-4-1 in the last five -- scoring just one goal in the last three games, on a penalty shot by Devin Setoguchi
on Tuesday with Minnesota already hoplessly out of a 7-1 loss at Colorado. They have only three wins in the last 16 games (3-10-3) and are now 13th in the Western Conference.
Minnesota was 20-7-3 and had the NHL's best record the last time it was in Phoenix (Dec. 10). Since then, the Wild are 8-22-7.
Only seven players who dressed for that Dec. 10 game will play tonight: Kyle Brodziak
, Matt Cullen
, Dany Heatley
, Nick Johnson
, Darroll Powe
, Marco Scandella
and Jared Spurgeon
The rest are either injured, in the minors or no longer part of the organization. How bad has the turnover been? If defenseman Tyler Cuma
, who was called up on Thursday, makes his NHL debut tonight he would become 45th player to wear a Minnesota jersey this season.
will be in goal after Matt Hackett
was bombed in Colorado. Cuma will replace Jared Spurgeon
(flu). Cal Clutterbuck
(upper body) is still out, along with a list too long to mention here.
Here's how the lineups could look tonight:
- Martin Hanzal
- Radim Vrbata
- Antoine Vermette
- Shane Doan
- Boyd Gordon
- Mikkel Boedker
- Daymond Langkow
- Paul Bissonnette
- Adrian Aucoin
- Michal Rozsival
- Chris Summers
- Kyle Brodziak
- Nick Johnson
- Matt Cullen
- Devin Setoguchi
- Erik Christensen
- Nick Palmieri
- Warren Peters
- Jed Ortmeyer
- Tyler Cuma
- Tom Gilbert
- Kurtis Foster