In a classic fourth place versus fifth-place matchup, the Minnesota Wild (12-7-1) will continue their trek through the desert to take on the Arizona Coyotes (10-9-3). Shockingly, it will be the first time these new division rivals will have faced off this season, with their one scheduled game back in early-February postponed due to COVID.
Here is a closer look at this pivotal matchup in which just two points separate these teams in the standings. Currently, Minnesota is the favorite at -140, while Arizona is the home underdog at +120.
By the Numbers
Most of the major offensive statistics are in favor of the visitors. Minnesota is averaging 3.1 goals per game, 12th in the NHL, on 31 shots. Conversely, Arizona is only 26th in league with 2.59 goals per game, doing so with a league-low average of 26.4 shots a game. However, the Coyotes hold a noticeable edge in their power play, entering Friday with a 21.1 percent success rate compared to a league-worst 7.6 percent rate for the Wild.
Defensively, the Wild hold most of the advantages once again. Minnesota cracks the top-10 with both 2.7 goals allowed and 29.5 shots allowed while having a penalty kill that ranks seventh with an 83.1 percent kill rate. Arizona, meanwhile, is more middle-of-the-pack in the first two categories, averaging 2.91 goals allowed on just under 31 shots. However, their 81.3 percent kill rate is enough to get their penalty kill inside the top-10.
Wild Betting Preview
Following a season-high six-game winning streak, the Wild dropped each of their two games on the road at Vegas. It was just the third time this season Minnesota has lost consecutive games, with one of those instances coming a full 14 days apart due to a COVID pause. The Wild are now hoping to avoid a season-high three-game skid and earn the two points, potentially moving them ahead in their tie with Colorado to claim sole possession of the third place in the West.
Minnesota’s point leader also happens to be one of the favorites for the Calder Trophy. Rookie Kirill Kaprizov has looked excellent in his debut NHL campaign, netting six goals and dishing out 11 assists to lead the team with 17 points. The 23-year old hopes to snap a two-game point drought after earning a point in each of the five games prior. One player who has been hot is the veteran Marcus Foligno, who, after netting three goals in the two games against Vegas, now trails Joel Eriksson Ek for the team-lead with seven goals.
Others to watch include Jordan Greenway, who, after registering points in three of his last four outings, is the team-leader with 12 assists. In addition, Mats Zuccarello is already up to 11 points after playing in only nine games, while last year’s scoring leader Kevin Fiala is hungry to snap his six-game goal drought.
With these teams also playing tomorrow, Minnesota will have to decide whether Kaapo Kahkonen or Cam Talbot starts in goal on Friday. Talbot has gone in three of the last four, so perhaps Kahkonen draws in. The Fin is 8-4-0 with a 2.41 GAA, and .915 save percentage, getting the bulk of the starts this year with Talbot missing some time earlier this season.
Coyotes Betting Preview
Following a pair of home losses to the Avalanche, the Coyotes responded with a 3-2 road win in Los Angeles. Arizona has done a good job of never losing more than two games in a row, and they have had five different situations to avoid a three-game skid already. However, they’ve also had just two instances of winning two or more in a row, so a win Friday would add to that group. That win coming in regulation would be even better, moving them into a tie with Minnesota for the final playoff spot.
The point-leader on the Coyotes is somewhat of a surprise given some of the names on the roster. Despite being day-to-day and even missing a game recently due to injury, Conor Garland leads the team with 13 assists and 20 points. Garland also enters Friday on a four-game point streak, all of which have been assists. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, Christian Dvorak is still the team’s leading goal-scorer with nine goals, despite scoring just twice in his last ten games and both of them coming in one game.
Dvorak’s 16 total points tie him for second on the Coyotes with Phil Kessell and Jakob Chychrun, the latter of whom has been one of the standout defensemen in hockey this season. Finally, keep an eye on both Clayton Keller and Nick Schmaltz. Each of them has seven goals and eight assists on the year, and each was able to score in their recent win over L.A.
Arizona’s unquestioned starter has been Darcy Kuemper, but the 30-year old is still day-to-day and hasn’t played since February 24th. Should he be unavailable again, the Yotes will use either Antti Raanta or Adin Hill in the net. Raanta would probably be the first choice, as the veteran is 3-1-1 with a .907 save percentage but an ugly 3.59 GAA.
These teams are neck-and-neck in the standings, so this should be a fun game on the later part of Friday’s schedule. The stats that separate these teams favor the Wild, as does who is potentially starting in net. Look for Minnesota’s defense to play well against Arizona’s unspectacular offensive attack, putting the last two games behind them and creating some separation in the standings before Saturday’s rematch.
Prediction: Minnesota Wild to win
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