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From the Rink: Wild opens five-game homestand Thursday against Coyotes

Minnesota has been one of the best teams on home ice this season, posting an 18-4-4 mark in St. Paul

by Dan Myers @DanMyers /

ST. PAUL -- The Wild begins a critical homestand on Thursday as it hosts the Arizona Coyotes at Xcel Energy Center.

Minnesota will play its next five games on home ice, its second longest stretch of games in St. Paul this season in a place that's been friendly to the Wild. 

Since returning from the NHL's three-day holiday break at Christmas, the Wild has posted at least one point in all 10 games it has played here, going 8-0-2 during that stretch. A win or overtime or shootout loss Thursday would set a new franchise point-streak record.

Since Nov. 14, the Wild has lost in regulation just once on home ice, nabbing at least one point in 18 of its past 19 games.

With its next five at Xcel Energy Center, the game against the Coyotes -- designated as Hockey Is For Everyone Awareness Night -- has the potential to be a tone setter for the next week or so.

Video: Wild begins five-game homestand with Arizona matchup

"It can. We just want to take it one game at a time like we always talk about. Our focus is on tonight and then we'll move on after. We want to make sure we're taking care of business here," said Wild forward Charlie Coyle. "We know any team can beat any team in this league on any given night. We have to make sure we bring our A-game. 

"We have been playing good at home as of late. We obviously want to keep that going and come out with a good start like we're capable of and carry it through. If we bring that focus, we're going to be OK."

Arizona has struggled mightily this season, entering on a four-game losing streak and having won just three times in 2018. But the Coyotes have played a bunch of one-goal games lately, including a 4-3 loss at Central Division-leading Winnipeg on Tuesday.

With a solid goaltender in Antti Raanta between the posts and plenty of young, fearless talent in the lineup, the Coyotes shouldn't be taken lightly.

"When a team that you're playing is sort of out of the playoffs and they're loosey-goosey, they've got nothing to lose, they play really hard," said Wild coach Bruce Boudreau. "I've watched a lot of games and that's what they do, they play really hard. If they get a couple early goals then they're very difficult to beat."

The Wild will be without defenseman Jonas Brodin, who had successful surgery on his hand on Wednesday and will miss the next 3-4 weeks of action.

That provides regular opportunities for Gustav Olofsson and Mike Reilly, who will each be in the lineup.

Olofsson is expected to get the first crack at Brodin's top-four minutes, playing next to Matt Dumba.

"For the most part, he's done a really good job," Boudreau said. "I thought he was really good in St. Louis [on Tuesday] and there are things where he's gotta continue doing that."

In an effort to shore up their defensive depth, the Wild traded forwards Mario Lucia and Christoph Bertschy to the New Jersey Devils for defenseman Viktor Lööv.

Lööv has two assists in four career NHL games but has been a staple in Binghamton of the American Hockey League this season, posting five goals and 12 assists in 36 games for the Devils' minor-league affiliate.

Bertschy had played in one game with Minnesota this season and nine NHL games over three years. Lucia is in his second pro season, all of which has been spent in Iowa. 

Here are the projected lineups:


Brendan Perlini - Derek Stepan - Clayton Keller

Zac Rinaldo - Max Domi - Christian Fischer

Richard Panik - Christian Dvorak - Josh Archibald

Jordan Martinook - Brad Richardson - Nick Cousins 

Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Alex Goligoski

Jakob Chychrun - Niklas Hjalmarsson

Kevin Connauton - Luke Schenn

Antti Raanta

Scott Wedgewood


Nino Niederreiter - Eric Staal - Tyler Ennis

Jason Zucker - Mikko Koivu - Mikael Granlund

Zach Parise - Matt Cullen - Charlie Coyle

Marcus Foligno - Joel Eriksson Ek - Daniel Winnik

Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon

Gustav Olofsson - Matt Dumba

Mike Reilly - Nate Prosser

Devan Dubnyk

Alex Stalock


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