Ekman-Larsson returns for big game against Wild

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The Phoenix Coyotes will have their excellent young defenseman, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, back in the lineup tonight when they host Minnesota in a key Western Conference tilt.

Ekman-Larsson missed the last two games after being hit from behind by Columbus’ Derek MacKenzie, who was slapped with a three-game suspension for the check.

“We missed his smarts and puck movement and he will bring some energy. He’s a top player for us,” Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said, per NHL.com. “It was interesting in practice [Wednesday], it looked like the rest has done him some good. He has a lot of energy and you could tell before the injury that it was down a little bit. We rely on that a lot.”

The Coyotes didn’t especially miss Ekman-Larsson in their last game, a 6-0 win over Calgary on Tuesday. But the Wild contest is a big one, given the race for the final wild-card spot in the West:

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The Coyotes have just three wins in their last 11.