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Wild Warmup: Minnesota at Arizona

Wild concludes regular season docket Saturday against Coyotes

by Dan Myers @1DanMyers / Wild.com
The essentials

Who: Minnesota Wild (48-25-8, 104 points, second place, Central Division) at Arizona Coyotes (30-41-10, 70 points, sixth place, Pacific Division)

Puck drop: 8:08 p.m. CT

Watch: FOX Sports North; FOX Sports GOWild Watch Bar LocationsNHL.TV

Listen: KFAN FM 100.3

Follow: @mnwild; GameCenter


At the rink

The Minnesota Wild cannot move up or down in the Central Division standings, but don't for a second think that its regular season finale against the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday is a meaningless game.

A win would ensure the Wild has the second-best record in the Western Conference, which could come in handy for home ice purposes should the Wild advance to the Conference Final round of the playoffs.

It's also an important game for Wild goaltender Darcy Kuemper, who will be between the pipes for the first time since March 25. Kuemper has played just four times since Feb. 28, having been pulled in two of those games while working in a relief effort in another.

"You just gotta stick to the basic fundamentals," Kuemper said of his approach on Saturday. "Keep your on the puck, keep it in front of you, stay square to it and give yourself a chance to make a save."

Video: Wild Pregame at Arizona Coyotes

Like everyone else in the lineup tonight, the finale offers Kuemper a chance for a final tune-up before the Stanley Cup Playoffs begin next week. While Devan Dubnyk is expected to play a bulk of the minutes in the Wild net during the postseason, history has shown Minnesota's backup may be asked to play at a critical time.

Kuemper himself was injured in the third period of a Game 7 against the Colorado Avalanche in 2014, necessitating Ilya Bryzgalov to enter in his place and help the Wild to a series-clinching overtime win.

And while Kuemper's game has been inconsistent this season, a good game on Saturday offers him a chance to feel good about where he's at, especially after a few rigorous practices over the last couple of weeks.

"It's more about doing what I gotta do to feel good about my game and be ready," Kuemper said. "I'm not going out there with the mindset that I need to prove anything. I'm going out there, playing hard and trying to get a win."

Mikko Koivu, who was rested in Colorado on Thursday, will be back in the lineup tonight. One game shy of reaching 200 consecutive games and one point shy of reaching 70 on the season, Mikael Granlund will get some rest against the Coyotes. 

Jordan Schroeder will also be scratched. Defenseman Jared Spurgeon (lower-body injury) is likely healthy enough to play, but with Minnesota's standing in the division set, there's little incentive to chance it.

Video: Bruce Boudreau pregame at Arizona

Here are the projected lineups:

WILD

Nino Niederreiter - Eric Staal - Zach Parise

Erik Haula - Mikko Koivu - Jason Zucker

Charlie Coyle - Martin Hanzal - Jason Pominville

Chris Stewart - Joel Eriksson Ek - Ryan White

Ryan Suter - Jonas Brodin

Marco Scandella - Matt Dumba

Nate Prosser - Christian Folin

Darcy Kuemper

Devan Dubnyk

COYOTES

Max Domi - Alex Burmistrov - Anthony Duclair

Brendan Perlini - Christian Dvorak - Shane Doan

Jamie McGinn - Josh Jooris - Radim Vrbata

Lawson Crouse - Jordan Matinook - Tobias Rieder

Alex Goligoski - Connor Murphy

Kevin Connauton - Luke Schenn

Jakob Chychrun - Anthony DeAngelo

Mike Smith

Louis Domingue


The opponent

Winners in three of their past four games, the Arizona Coyotes will also finish up their schedule on Saturday. Unlike the Wild, however, the Coyotes will not be heading to the postseason, missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the fifth consecutive year. Radim Vrbata is the only Arizona player currently on roster who has reached at least 20 goals this season. His 55 points lead the team, and Vrbata is the lone Coyote to surpass the 40-point plateau.


Connections

• Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk went 9-5-2 with a 2.72 goals against average and .916 save percentage in 19 games with the Coyotes during the 2014-15 season.

• Wild forward Martin Hanzal was a first-round pick by the Coyotes in 2005 and played 10 seasons for the organization, scoring 117 goals and 196 assists in 608 games between 2007-2017, before being traded to the Wild on Feb. 26.

• Wild forward Ryan White scored seven goals and has six assists in 46 games with Arizona earlier this season, joining Hanzal in the trade to Minnesota in late February.

• Wild assistant coach John Anderson was an assistant for the Coyotes for two seasons (2011-13).

• Coyotes defenseman Alex Goligoski is from Grand Rapids and played three seasons at the University of Minnesota.

• Coyotes forward Teemu Pulkkinen scored one goal in nine games with Minnesota before being traded to Arizona on Feb. 27.


History in the making?

Minnesota plays its final game of the regular season Saturday. At 48-25-8 and 104 points, the Wild has matched its franchise record for most wins and points in a single-season (48-26-8 in 2006-07). It can top those marks with a win, overtime loss or shootout loss Saturday.

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