Minnesota Wild (37-26-11) at Phoenix Coyotes (36-26-12)
|Date & Time||Saturday March 29, 2014, 9:00 PM (EDT)|
The Line: Phoenix Coyotes -142 / Minnesota Wild +129 --- Over/Under: 5
|TV Channel||Stream NHL games all season on ESPN+ for only $4.99 a month. Sign up now!|
The two hockey clubs who seem poised to secure the two wild card berths in the Western Conference meet on Saturday at Jobing.com Arena. While neither is expected to do more than show their face in the first round of the playoffs they've each got potential if they can really put their games together at the right time. Right now the Wild are positioned to face the San Jose Sharks in the opening round, and while that's not an ideal match up on paper it still might be closer than a lot of people think. The Wild will have absolutely no pressure on them in that series, while the Sharks will be feeling the weight of the world. San Jose is notorious for choking in the post season year after year and if the Wild could ever find a way to steal one of those first two games in that series they could really make things interesting. The Wild will need to play much better hockey than they did on Thursday night in St. Louis however. Minnesota just couldn't hold off the Blues and Darcy Kuemper was whitewashed for five goals on just 24 shots. With their instability in goal there's just no telling what type of game to expect from Minnesota on a nightly basis. If Kuemper's play is going to fall off and they have to rely on Ilya Bryzgalov there's just no way to gauge how this team is going to play. It should be an interesting match up for them on Saturday night against a Phoenix club that is supposed to be good defensively but continues to keep taking leads and then blowing them night after night. With players like Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu up front the Wild have guys who will work hard and make some things happen, and right now the Coyotes have to be second guessing themselves despite coming out on top on Thursday night in New Jersey against the Devils.
Phoenix has just been fascinating with the way they're blowing these games This club is supposed to be as defensively responsible as they come under head coach Dave Tippett but they just can't seem to lock down games after jumping in front early. It happened once again on Thurday night at the Prudential Center against the Devils as they jumped out to a 2-0 lead only to blow it over the course of the final 20 minutes. Phoenix easily could have gone home with another loss in this one but Thomas Greiss made some huge saves late and in overtime in this one to give his team a chance. The Coyotes finally won it in the shootout and it gave them their second consecutive win on this three game road trip. Kyle Chipchura and Chris Summers were the unlikely goal scorers in this one but it was Mikkel Boedker who decided the game and gave the Coyotes the extra point with the only shootout goal. Boedker used his speed and virtually had Devils goalie Martin Brodeur in his own net before he whipped a back hand past him. Greiss made 26 saves and his play could be crucial to keeping Phoenix in a playoff spot if goaltender Mike Smith is out longer than day-to-day. Smith's injury against the Rangers in New York on Monday night didn't look good at all but the team is downplaying it at this point. This is a tough game to call between these two clubs but the Coyotes are coming back from a road trip, without their top goalie, and the Wild should be looking to make up for that embarrassing performance in St. Louis.