The Arizona Coyotes and Minnesota Wild are on the wrong side of the playoff picture as the NHL schedule heads into its final week.
The Coyotes (37-33-8, 82 points) and Wild (36-33-9, 81 points) will bid to improve their standing at the other’s expense on Sunday when they meet in Glendale, Ariz.
Captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson capped his ninth two-goal performance of his career by scoring with 51 seconds remaining in the third period on Friday, but Arizona was unable to secure the extra point in its 3-2 shootout loss Colorado.
The setback was the sixth in seven outings (1-3-3) for the Coyotes, who fell three points behind the Avalanche for the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference.
“I think that could be a huge point at the end of the day,” the 27-year-old Ekman-Larsson said. “So we’ll take that one and move forward and hopefully get in the playoffs. It’s going to be a little bit harder now.”
Ekman-Larsson has four points (three goals, one assist) in his past four games for Arizona, which is attempting to qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2011-12 when the club was known as the Phoenix Coyotes.
Conversely, Minnesota hasn’t missed the postseason since 2011-12, but it is looking to make a late push after posting a 3-2 victory at Vegas on Friday for just its third win in 10 outings (3-6-1).
“It’s desperate, we know where we’re at,” Wild center Eric Staal said after scoring and setting up a goal against the Golden Knights. “We were crossing our fingers that Arizona beat Colorado (on Friday) just to kind of tighten it up a little bit more.”
The 34-year-old Staal has 20 points (14 goals, six assists) in 22 career encounters versus the Coyotes, including the go-ahead goal in the third period of Minnesota’s 2-1 win on Oct. 16.
Defenseman Jared Spurgeon set up a goal in that contest and had three assists in the Wild’s 4-3 setback to Arizona on Nov. 27.
Devan Dubnyk turned aside 35 shots versus Vegas and has yielded just 13 goals in his last six games (3-3-0). The 32-year-old, who spent a portion of the 2014-15 season with the Coyotes, made 31 saves in the victory against Arizona on Oct. 16 before allowing four goals on 14 shots in the November rematch.
Dubnyk owns a 7-7-4 record with a 2.80 goals-against average and .907 save percentage in 19 career appearances versus the Coyotes. He is expected to get the nod on Sunday for Minnesota, which carries a 7-1-1 mark in its last nine visits to Arizona into the pivotal contest.
“We’ve got to focus on our next game. Our next game is probably going to be the toughest game of the year,” Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said. “I think whoever loses is probably for sure out.”
Darcy Kuemper has permitted just 15 goals in his last nine games, but only has a 3-3-3 record to show for it. The 28-year-old, who spent five seasons with Minnesota, made 26 saves in his lone career start against the Wild on Oct. 16.