Coyotes continue their dominance in Minnesota

Jess Myers, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

SAINT PAUL, Minn. -- Phoenix Coyotes coach Dave Tippett's wife is from Minnesota, and he has plenty of friends and family in attendance every time his team plays there. He joked that those factors may explain the Coyotes' recent dominance on the Minnesota Wild's home ice.
On Wednesday, Phoenix got two goals from right winger Radim Vrbata and another from left winger Mikkel Boedker to beat the injury-plagued Wild 3-1. The Coyotes improved to 6-0-2 in their last eight games in Minnesota.
"It's a start," Tippett said. "We played a solid road game. We came out and had a really good first period. We got up by one and had some chances to go farther than that."
Coyotes goalie Thomas Greiss, making just his fourth start of the season, had 28 saves as Phoenix (15-6-4) snapped a three-game winless streak and handed the Wild just their second home loss in regulation this season.
Minnesota (15-7-4) got a third-period goal from left winger Dany Heatley but was unable to muster much in the way of consistent offense. The Wild were already playing without their leading scorer: Left winger Zach Parise suffered a foot injury on Monday in St. Louis and is expected to miss two to three weeks.
They also lost second-line center Mikael Granlund early in the first period, forcing coach Mike Yeo into some early line-juggling. Granlund, who had missed the two previous games with an upper-body injury, left the ice after a collision during his first shift.
"Certainly, things were a mess," Yeo said of his makeshift lineup. "Our start wasn't good enough. But our guys kept battling. There were many opportunities where we could've tied it up, but we've got to stop shooting ourselves in the foot with these starts."
Phoenix took advantage of the instability on the home bench, grabbing a first-period lead when Boedker capped off a two-on-one break, snapping a rising shot past Minnesota goalie Niklas Backstrom. It was the second goal in as many games for Boedker.
The Coyotes had just three shots on goal in the second period, but one of them eluded Backstrom, doubling the visitors' lead. Vrbata, who now has eight points in the six games he has played since returning from injury, found himself uncovered with the puck in front of the Minnesota net and wristed a shot for his seventh goal of the season.
"Boring, but it got us two points," said Vrbata, who added an empty-net power play goal in the final minute.
Minnesota's only answer came halfway through the final period. Nino Niederreiter's long-range shot hit Greiss in the mask and deflected up. Heatley swatted the puck out of the air and into the net before the goalie could recover.
Greiss said playing with a lead was a big boost for his game.
"It was great. We talked a little bit about getting the first goal and playing a solid defensive game. That's what we did," said Greiss, now 3-1-0 this season. "I know my role on the team, and when I get my chance I'm trying to do my best."
Backstrom, making his third consecutive start after missing four games with a concussion, had 23 saves as his record fell to 2-3-2. For Minnesota, it was another slow start that doomed the Wild, who lost their second in a row.
"It's tough no matter who you're playing, let alone a real solid defensive structured team like Phoenix," said Minnesota defenseman Keith Ballard, who returned to the lineup on Wednesday after a nine-game stint on injured reserve due to broken ribs.
Ballard, who signed with Minnesota over the summer, spent his first three NHL seasons with the Coyotes.
"You get yourself in a hole 2-0, it's tough in this league to battle back," he said. "We had some chances on the power play and the power play wasn't good. We had some other opportunities and we didn't capitalize."
NOTES: Left winger Zach Parise's injury occurred when he was hit in the left foot by a slap shot during the Wild's 3-0 loss in St. Louis on Monday. He skated in full pads during the Wednesday morning skate to test the severity of the injury. ... G Thomas Greiss, who has played sparingly this season behind Mike Smith, tended goal for Germany in the 2006 and 2010 Winter Olympics. He will have a break in February as the Germans failed to qualify for the Sochi games. ... D Rusty Klesla, waived by the Coyotes on Tuesday, cleared waivers on Wednesday and will report to the team's AHL affiliate in Portland, Maine. Klesla had missed seven games due to injury this season. ... Wild G Josh Harding, who had missed the previous two games with a lower-body injury, was back in uniform and backed up G Niklas Backstrom. Harding's return to the lineup prompted Minnesota to send G Darcy Kuemper down to AHL Iowa. ... The Coyotes headed back to Arizona after the game and will host the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday evening. Minnesota, in the midst of a stretch with four games in six days, hosts the Colorado Avalanche on Friday.

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