Wild-Coyotes Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated February 27, 2013
Minnesota Wild coach Mike Yeo has been trying to tame expectations for his club, which is a tall order given the nearly $200 million dollars committed to signing Zach Parise and Ryan Suter in the offseason. Despite having some trouble scoring, though, Minnesota has been on a bit of a roll lately. The Wild seek a fourth victory in their last five tries Thursday night as they visit the Phoenix Coyotes, who are hoping to have Martin Hanzal and Radim Vrbata back from injury. Minnesota (9-7-2) hasn't gotten off to the ideal start it hoped for with Parise and Suter in the mix, though it has come on stronger of late. Parise scored a power-play goal in overtime to give the Wild a 2-1 win over Calgary on Tuesday as they improved to 5-2-1 over their last eight. "If we thought that we were just going to sign a couple players and all of a sudden we've arrived, and they were going to open the gates, and here we are, a playoff team, that's not reality,'' Yeo said. "It's hard. You have to do a lot of things to be a winner, to find yourself at that point. "I thought this was a huge step for our club." The scoring troubles, though, haven't been cured, as Minnesota didn't find the back of the net until Jason Zucker tied the score with 4:19 remaining in the third. It has scored a league-worst 37 non-shootout goals and is only 2 for 24 on the power play over its last seven games. The Wild have netted more than three goals only twice - a 4-2 win over Colorado in their season opener Jan. 19 and a 5-4 overtime loss at St. Louis on Jan. 27. "It's been like that for a little while where game after game you start to ask yourself, 'What can we do different?' and that's not the answer," Parise said. "The puck will go in for us, but when it's not you have to make sure you're not questioning what you're doing." Parise scored Minnesota's lone goal in a 2-1 loss at Phoenix on Feb. 4, as the Coyotes won for the third time in the last four meetings. Hanzal scored what proved to be the game-winner off an assist from Vrbata in that contest, though Hanzal (upper-body injury) has missed the last three games and Vrbata (lower-body injury) the last four. It's unclear if either will be able to return Thursday as Phoenix (9-7-3) begins a stretch of six of seven at home, where it has won four of the last five. The Coyotes went 1-1-1 on their road trip after Kyle Chipchura scored twice in Tuesday's 4-2 win over Vancouver. Antoine Vermette and Mikkel Boedker each had a goal and an assist as Phoenix remained aggressive despite holding a two-goal lead in the third period. "In previous games when we took the lead we would kind of sat back a bit,'' Boedker said. "We have more success when we press the opponent down in their end.'' Mike Smith made 21 saves in the first meeting with the Wild, while Niklas Backstrom - 4-1-1 with a 1.45 goals-against average in his last six starts - stopped 32 shots in that contest. Minnesota will be without forward Cal Clutterbuck, who was placed on injured reserve Tuesday with a thigh contusion.
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