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Coyotes open critical homestand with much-needed win over Wild

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Dave Tippett talked to his team Thursday about the opportunity before them, now that the NHL schedule is finally ready to do the Coyotes a solid.

As they prepare for their 30th game of the season on Saturday against Carolina, the Coyotes have played the least amount of home games (11) and the most road games (18) in the NHL, yet they sit at .500 with a 14-14-1 record.

“We’ve kind of survived,” Tippett said.

With eight of December’s final nine games on home ice, it’s time for the Coyotes to thrive.

“This is a big homestand for us,” forward Mikkel Boedker said.

Boedker helped launch it on positive note when he swept in a rebound on his backhand just 34 seconds into overtime for a power-play goal as the Coyotes beat the Minnesota Wild, 2-1 to snap a four-game losing streak and post their fifth straight win at Gila River Arena.

Boedker tied the game on a breakaway late in the second period when he beat Minnesota goalie Darcy Kuemper to a loose puck and snapped it into the far side of the net, giving him five goals in his last two home games and 11 goals this season.

“It was one of those games again,” said Boedker, who had a hat trick in the Coyotes’ last home game on Nov. 28 against Ottawa. “I had two opportunities and the last one just landed right on my stick.”

While Boedker provided the highlights at one end while wearing the A in alternate captain Martin Hanzal’s absence, goalie Anders Lindback earned the first star by turning aside 27 Minnesota shots, including a point-blank stop on left wing Thomas Vanek, and arm and leg saves on right wing Jason Pominville.

Lindback made the start because Mike Smith suffered a lower-body injury on Thursday that will sideline him until next week.

“The last game was a real disappointment,” said Lindback, who allowed five goals in 18 shots on Dec. 6 in Carolina. “It was nice to get back in this quick.”

Tippett expressed concern about his team at Thursday’s practice. Coming off a five-game, nine-day road trip, he sensed mental and physical fatigue.

“I didn’t like our practice at all,” he said. “There wasn’t a lot of life at all. You can tell it takes a toll on players.

“We were talking about having an optional skate (Friday) morning but we decided to put everybody on just to see if we could get a little more juice in our group. We worked alright. We just need to play a little better with the puck.”

The Coyotes will be without Hanzal and Smith on Saturday, and they will likely be without Shane Doan, but if they can find a way to get past Carolina, which played Friday in Anaheim, they will get a four-day break and then they can start reaping the rewards of a favorable schedule.

Thanks to a mediocre Pacific Division, the Coyotes find themselves in a tight pack of six teams where four points separate second place from seventh.

“The positive for us in the Pacific Division is that we’re able to kind of be in the pack,” general manager Don Maloney said. “If we can turn things around here at home — we have a good schedule basically for the next month — we can stay in that playoff pack.”

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