Minnesota (11-11-4) at Arizona (13-7-6)

Sunny Currently: Glendale, AZ
Temp: 66° F
  • Game info: 9:00 pm EST Thu Dec 9, 2010
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The Minnesota Wild have won just once in their last eight games, but they have found a way to earn a point from each of their past two contests.

That’s more than they can say about any of their recent meetings with the Phoenix Coyotes.

The Coyotes have won five straight against the Wild, a streak they’ll try to extend Thursday night at Jobing.com Arena.

Minnesota (11-11-4) won six of eight at the beginning of November, but it’s fallen on hard times since. The Wild lost for the fifth time in six games Dec. 1, when Scottie Upshall(notes) scored twice on Jose Theodore(notes) to lift the Coyotes (13-7-6) to a 4-2 victory in St. Paul.

Minnesota didn’t pick up a victory Friday or Saturday, but did come away with needed points in encouraging fashion. The Wild came back from a goal down in the third period Friday against Calgary before falling 3-2 in a shootout, then rallied from a 2-0 deficit Saturday in Dallas before losing 4-3 in overtime.

“I’d have liked to have two (points), but the point that we got shows a lot of character of the group,” coach Todd Richards said. “Down 2-0, it could have been a game you pack in and say you didn’t have it.”

Turning that minor momentum into a win won’t be easy Thursday. Phoenix has outscored Minnesota 18-10 in winning the series’ past five games, with Upshall contributing four goals in four contests during that stretch.

Upshall has six goals and six assists in his last eight games against the Wild - all wins - dating back to his days in Nashville and Philadelphia.

The former first-round pick is tied for the Coyotes’ goal-scoring lead with eight, but his team showed its balance Sunday in Anaheim. Taylor Pyatt(notes) and Shane Doan(notes) scored before Lee Stempniak(notes) added an empty-netter to give Phoenix a 3-0 victory.

It was goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov(notes) who was the No. 1 star, though, turning away 26 shots against the team that waived him in 2007-08. He improved to 7-2-1 with a 2.17 goals-against average in his last 10 starts.

“I always felt that I was capable of being a No. 1 goalie, and (in Anaheim) I got an opportunity to prove myself,” Bryzgalov said. “But right now my home is with the Phoenix Coyotes.”

Bryzgalov has been aided by an improving power-play unit during his recent hot stretch. The Coyotes have converted on 22.0 percent (9 for 41) of their chances with the man advantage over their last 10 games, a big step up over a unit that was 6 for 49 (12.2 percent) during the first 16 games.

The Wild’s power-play, meanwhile, is headed in the opposite direction. Minnesota cashed in on 29.4 percent (20 for 68) of its man-advantage chances during its first 16 contests. Since then, it’s in a 1-for-29 slump.

Power-play success would certainly benefit Niklas Backstrom(notes), who will try to stop a personal four-game losing streak during which he’s posted a 5.21 GAA.

Backstrom was 8-0-0 with a 1.13 GAA in his first eight starts against Phoenix. Since, he’s 1-5-0 with a 3.38 GAA.

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Thursday, Dec 9