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'Yotes hope struggling Wild the tonic for March slump

by Jerry Brown
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.

Josh Harding 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:

Raffi Torres - Martin Hanzal - Radim Vrbata
Ray Whitney - Antoine Vermette - Shane Doan
Lauri Korpikoski - Boyd Gordon - Mikkel Boedker
Taylor Pyatt - Daymond Langkow - Paul Bissonnette

Keith Yandle - Adrian Aucoin
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Michal Rozsival
David Rundblad - Chris Summers

Jason LaBarbera
Mike Smith


Dany Heatley - Kyle Brodziak - Nick Johnson
Darroll Powe - Matt Cullen - Devin Setoguchi
Stephane Veilleux - Erik Christensen - Nick Palmieri
Matt Kassian - Warren Peters - Jed Ortmeyer

Marco Scandella - Tyler Cuma
Steven Kampfer - Tom Gilbert
Nate Prosser - Kurtis Foster

Josh Harding
Matt Hackett

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