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Wild, Coyotes battle in the desert
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Minnesota Wild try to push their winning streak to four consecutive games on Thursday night as they visit a Phoenix Coyotes club that is aiming to win two straight for the first time in a month.
After winning the final two games of a four-game homestand to snap a six-game slide, with each setback coming in regulation, the Wild stayed in the win column on Tuesday with a 2-1 shootout victory over the Los Angeles Kings.
Nino Niederreiter had Minnesota's only goal in regulation and the 21-year-old was the only skater to find the back of the net in the four-round shootout. He ended up being the final shooter as he faked a shot before beating Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick for the winner.
Darcy Kuemper came up big as well with 39 saves through overtime and another four stops in the shootout. With Josh Harding on injured reserve and Niklas Backstrom battling abdominal soreness, Kuemper made his second start of the season and fifth of his career.
"There was a while there where our execution wasn't there. We were turning pucks over left and right and really making things very difficult on ourselves," said Wild coach Mike Yeo. "Right from the start Nino stepped up, and that's a statement for those kids to come out and play like that. It's a good statement for the rest of the team that our young players can come in and play like that."
Jason Pominville and Mikael Granlund both had an assist for the Wild.
It is unknown if Backstrom is healthy enough to start after backing up Kuemper on Tuesday. He is 13-10-0 with a 2.19 goals against average and three shutouts in 23 career meetings with the Coyotes, while Kuemper has never faced them.
The Coyotes will counter with No. 1 Mike Smith, who is 4-5-1 with a 2.03 GAA in his career versus the Wild, which includes 10 appearances and eight starts.
Smith got the night off on Tuesday, the same day he was named to the Canadian Olympic team for the upcoming 2014 Winter Games, and Thomas Greiss was excellent in his place, stopping 27 shots in a 6-0 win over the Calgary Flames.
Greiss notched his first shutout of the season and second of his career, while six different Coyotes skaters lit the lamp.
Phoenix won for just the third time in its past 11 games, but does have a point in seven of its last nine (3-2-4). The Coyotes have not won two in a row since Dec. 10-12.
"It was a must-win for us. We needed those points," said Greiss.
Shane Doan and Mikkel Boedker both netted their team-leading 13th goal of the season. Doan's goal was his first since Dec. 3 and it came in his second game back since sitting out due to Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
Boedker, meanwhile, has already set new career highs this season with 13 goals and 29 points.
Lauri Korpikoski added two assists to his goal on Tuesday, while Martin Hanzal, Michael Stone and Rob Klinkhammer recorded goals.
Phoenix will play the fifth contest of its six-game homestand and is slated to have defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson back in action tonight. The scoring blueliner had missed the past two games with an upper-body injury.
The Coyotes snapped a two-game slide to the Wild with a 3-1 win at Minnesota on Nov. 27. Radim Vrbata scored twice, Boedker added a goal and Greiss had 28 saves.
Backstrom made 23 saves for the Wild, who have won four of their past six in Phoenix.
01/09 11:08:41 ET