The Phoenix Coyotes have had a tough time scoring at the Xcel Energy Center in recent years. They might not need too many goals, though, to finally pull out a victory there Tuesday.
The Coyotes look to end a six-game road losing streak to the struggling Minnesota Wild when the teams continue their season series.
Phoenix (21-17-5) snapped a nine-game skid versus Minnesota (20-18-3) with a 3-1 home win Dec. 11, but that victory came after it lost the first two meetings of the season. In the clubs’ previous matchup, the Wild won 4-0 on Nov. 13 to extend their home winning streak in the series.
Minnesota has held Phoenix to two goals or fewer in every game during its run at the Xcel Energy Center. Another strong defensive performance, however, may not be enough for the Wild to extend their streak.
Minnesota has scored 28 goals in its last 17 games, and has managed two goals or fewer in seven of its last nine contests.
Making matters worse for the Wild is an undisclosed injury to goaltender Niklas Backstrom that kept him out of a 4-2 loss to Columbus on Saturday night. Backstrom is 4-0-0 with a 0.75 goals-against average in four home games versus the Coyotes, and 8-1-0 with a 1.34 GAA in nine games against them overall.
If Backstrom can’t play, Josh Harding will get a second straight start in net.
Phoenix, meanwhile, got another outstanding effort from Ilya Bryzgalov in a 1-0 shootout win over Dallas on Saturday night. He made 38 saves in regulation and overtime, then stopped three of five in the shootout.
The shutout was Bryzgalov’s second this season and seventh of his career. He’s 2-1-0 with a 1.61 goals-against average in his last four games, three of which were starts.
“It’s the NHL. Nothing’s easy here,” Bryzgalov said. “I just react with the play and follow the players.”
Bryzgalov, though, is 0-4-0 with a 3.55 GAA in five road games against the Wild.
Whoever is in goal for Minnesota on Tuesday won’t have defenseman Kurt Sauer in front of them. Sauer, who’s had an outstanding season, is expected to be sidelined at least four weeks because of a lower-body injury suffered Saturday night against Dallas.
“It is a big blow for us,” Coyotes general manager Don Maloney said. “It will open up an opportunity for someone else to step in and play well.”
Maloney said he will not recall a defenseman, so David Hale and Keith Yankle will be get more playing time.
Sauer’s absence could make it easier for Minnesota to snap out of its offensive funk. Center Mikko Koivu leads the team with 38 points (11 goals, 27 assists), but he’s scored one goal in his last 16 games. He has a goal and an assist in the Wild’s three games against Phoenix this season.