A brutal road trip has dropped the Minnesota Wild out of the current Western Conference playoff picture. Beating one of the teams they're chasing could be the spark needed to help them eventually get back in.
The Wild close their season-high six-game trek Sunday night against the Anaheim Ducks, who are also looking to move up in the West.
Minnesota (31-28-5) is in 11th place with 67 points - one behind Anaheim (31-29-6), but only one ahead of St. Louis and two in front of Los Angeles. The Ducks, meanwhile, are two points in back of Dallas, Nashville and Edmonton, which are tied for seventh.
That was where the Wild were at the start of this swing, but they've gone on to lose four of five. On Saturday, Minnesota fell 4-3 to the Kings, failing to build on its momentum of a victory over Pacific Division-leading San Jose on Thursday.
"I don't think we quite realize the situation, where we are," right wing Antti Miettinen told the Wild's official Web site. "It's going to take a lot of work and a lot of bruises and everything to get where we want."
Niklas Backstrom, playing his third game since signing a four-year, $24 million contract extension, was pulled after allowing three goals on 13 shots.
Backstrom came out of the All-Star break tied for fourth in the NHL in wins (22) and with the ninth-lowest goals-against average (2.22). He's allowed 14 goals in his last four starts, however.
On Feb. 4, Backstrom stopped 34 shots in a 3-0 win over Anaheim, and may be back in net on Sunday. He lost his only career start at the Honda Center, making 35 saves as the Wild fell 3-2 on Nov. 12, 2006.
Backup Josh Harding has just one win since Nov. 29, but is 2-1-0 with a 2.02 GAA and a shutout in his career in Anaheim.
The Wild have lost four of their last six visits to Anaheim, including a 4-2 defeat on Dec. 14.
Meanwhile, Anaheim will try to avoid losing its third straight. The Ducks fell 3-2 at home to Dallas on Friday in its first game after a 3-2-1 road trip.
The Ducks had several new faces in the lineup after a flurry of deals at Wednesday's NHL trading deadline. Three players made their Anaheim debuts, including former Chicago defenseman James Wisniewski, who scored his first goal midway through the third period.
"I think the chemistry in the room is going to take a while to adjust," forward Erik Christensen, who came over from Atlanta, told the Ducks' official Web site. "Some of the guys just don't know the new guys here, like me. It might just take a couple of games for everything to feel somewhat normal again."
Petteri Nokelainen, picked up from Boston, played for the first time since Feb. 10, but didn't record a point. Bobby Ryan scored his 23rd goal - tops among rookies - and Jean-Sebastien Giguere made 13 saves.
Anaheim has lost three straight and five of seven at home, where they will wrap up a five-game run against San Jose, Vancouver and Nashville.
"Obviously we want to get the points here at home," said Giguere, who's won four of his last six home starts against Minnesota. "It's not about the other team right now, it's about us trying to win games and trying to put ourselves in a good situation. It's up to us."
Corey Perry has three goals against the Wild this season, and five goals in his last six games against them.