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Wild roundup: Backstrom to start; team recommends skate protectors

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In a bit of a surprise, head coach Mike Yeo said he will start Niklas Backstrom in net tonight against Phoenix tonight despite abdominal soreness that has been hampering him the last week.

Backstrom, who has not missed any practice because of the ailment, was increasingly likely to sit tonight thanks to the strong performance of Darcy Kuemper between the pipes Tuesday in Los Angeles. Yeo decided otherwise.

On the other end of the ice, the Coyotes make a similar move, starting Mike Smith in goal despite goaltender Thomas Griess posting a shutout Tuesday.

Smith is the usual starter for Phoenix, with a 15-10-8 record this year, while Backstrom normally serves as the backup to the currently-inactive Josh Harding (illness).

Backstrom has allowed three-plus goals in seven of his last eight games, and is 4-9-2 on the year.

Other lineup notes have defenseman Marco Scandella slated to go tonight despite battling a lower-body injury suffered Tuesday, while offseason acquisition Jon Blum will take the place of Keith Ballard, who has struggled mightily of late.

One other note, with the recent rash of foot injuries to Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Jared Spurgeon, and Scandella, all caused by blocking shots with their skates, general manager Chuck Fletcher says he will "strongly recommend" players wear plastic skate protectors.

The pieces of plastic that cover the sides and top of the skate were reportedly being pushed by Fletcher before the run of foot injuries, though few skaters seem to have taken him up in the idea.

Puck drop in the desert tonight at 8 p.m.

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