Originally posted on Fox Sports North  |  Last updated 12/10/11
By MATT BEARDMORE, STATS WriterMatt Hackett's brilliant run in net for the Minnesota Wild could soon come to an end with starting goaltender Niklas Backstrom getting healthy. But with fellow back-up Josh Harding dealing with a neck injury, the 21-year-old rookie could be sticking around for a while. The NHL-leading Wild will try to extend their longest road win streak in franchise history to seven Saturday night when they face the Phoenix Coyotes. Hackett, the nephew of former NHL goalie Jeff Hackett, was called up last Saturday from AHL Houston to back up Harding after Backstrom suffered a groin injury versus New Jersey on Dec. 2. However, Hackett has been at the center of the Wild's last two victories.He turned aside all 34 shots he faced in a 2-1 victory in San Jose on Tuesday after Harding left 71 seconds in with a neck injury, then made 42 saves in 4-2 road win over Los Angeles on Thursday in his first career start."I can't explain it. It's been crazy," Hackett said. "It's the best 72 hours of my life so far. I'm just living the dream right now, and I just want to keep it going."While coach Mike Yeo said Friday there's a possibility Hackett could make a second consecutive start, there really is no reason for the club to even think about making a permanent switch. Minnesota (19-7-3) is off to the best start in franchise history thanks in large part to Backstrom, who is 10-5-2 with a 2.15 goals-against average. "We got really good goaltending," Yeo told the league's official website Thursday when asked if there is a goalie controversy. "We've got three of them. But, no, there's no controversy."However, Harding will be unavailable against Phoenix after the team sent him home from Friday's practice to see a team doctor. He could return Monday when the club is preparing for the end of its five-game trip in Winnipeg. Whoever starts for the Wild will try to help the club win its seventh straight overall, the club's longest winning streak since a franchise-best nine-game run March 8-24, 2007.The Wild have won 12 of 18 games in which they have surrendered the first goal, but the club would likely prefer another quick start Saturday. Mikko Koivu scored 24 seconds in Thursday for the fastest road goal in club history.The Pacific Division-leading Coyotes (15-10-3) certainly didn't start quick Thursday, surrendering five first-period goals in a 5-2 loss at Detroit."Nothing really to take away from that other than we have to be better to start the game," captain Shane Doan said.Phoenix has trailed in the first period in each of its last three losses and was behind 4-0 after the opening 20 minutes of a 4-2 loss to Philadelphia last Saturday. All nine of the first-period goals in the three defeats have come against Mike Smith, which could prompt coach Dave Tippett to give Saturday's start to Jason LaBarbera. However, LaBarbera allowed six goals in a 6-5 overtime loss in his last start against the Wild on Jan. 2.Koivu matched a career best with four assists in that game and led the Wild with seven points as the teams split four matchups last season.Koivu has five goals and 11 assists in the last 11 games.Doan had his six-game point streak against Minnesota snapped in the last meeting, a 1-0 Phoenix home win Feb. 5.The Coyotes are 7-2-1 versus the Wild since a nine-game skid in the series.
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