Wild-Coyotes Preview

The Associated Press

On the verge of matching their longest winning streak of the season, the injury-plagued Minnesota Wild appear to have put their recent woes behind them.

The Phoenix Coyotes are coming off a big win of their own.

The Wild try to keep rolling when they visit the Coyotes on Thursday night.

Minnesota (23-17-5) had been outscored 26-13 during a season-worst six-game losing streak before opening the new year with three consecutive wins. The Wild picked up another two points Tuesday with a 2-1 shootout win at Los Angeles, just their second road victory in 11 games.

Minnesota is enjoying its longest run since winning a season-best four straight Nov. 9-17.

"We tried to keep it simple," Darcy Kuemper, who made 39 saves in his second start of the season, told the NHL's official website. "It didn't have to be pretty. We're on the road. We focused on battling and working hard and pulling out an ugly road win, and that's exactly what we did."

With Josh Harding on injured reserve due to an unspecified illness and Niklas Backstrom (abdominal soreness) banged up, Kuemper could get another start.

"I'm real happy for Darcy," coach Mike Yeo said. "He got thrown into a situation where he didn't know he was going to play until (Tuesday) morning, and he responded very well. I thought a lot of guys competed and battled for us, but you have to look at him first. Right from the start he looked very confident."

Aside from their goalies, the Wild continue to play without star winger Zach Parise (foot). Tuesday also marked Minnesota's first game since losing captain Mikko Koivu to a broken ankle.

Koivu leads the team with 35 points and Parise ranks second with 15 goals.

The Coyotes (21-12-9) struggled through a 1-2-3 slide before cruising to a 6-0 win over Calgary on Tuesday. Lauri Korpikoski tallied a goal and two assists while Mikkel Boedker, Shane Doan, Martin Hanzal and Michael Stone recorded one of each.

Mike Ribeiro and Radim Vrbata added two assists apiece and Thomas Greiss stopped 27 shots.

"It was a must-win for us. We needed those points," said Greiss, who improved to 6-2-1 with a 1.89 goals-against average. "The guys blocked a lot of shots (15) that took chances away that made it easier for me. Then we got up a couple of goals and that helps too."

Greiss also came up big with 28 saves in a 3-1 win at Minnesota on Nov. 27. Vrbata had two goals that night and Boedker also scored as the Coyotes improved to 4-1-2 over a seven-game stretch in the series.

Despite Greiss' performance, Mike Smith could be back in goal Thursday. Smith, looking to snap a season-worst five-start winless stretch, is 3-7-5 with a 2.92 GAA in his last 16. Smith has gone 2-4-1 with a 2.38 GAA in his last seven against the Wild.

Boedker, who has four points in the last two games, has already set career highs with a team best-tying 13 goals and 29 points. Phoenix is 9-3-0 when he scores.

"It's a team sport and we're all team guys in our room, but it's been going well for me personally and it's nice to see those pucks going in the net," Boedker told the team's official website.

Minnesota and Phoenix are tied for the second wild card in the Western Conference with 51 points. The Coyotes have three games in hand, though.