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Ducks Hope to Send a Message Tonight in Minnesota

by Kyle Shohara @kyleshohara /

The road has been anything but kind to the Ducks on this season-long 14-day, six-game journey, but tonight they can finish on a high note against the Western Conference-leading Minnesota Wild. The Ducks have had two full days between games - their most recent contest a 6-4 defeat in Washington on Saturday - so there should be plenty of gas left in the tank.

"We've had lots of rest throughout the trip," said defenseman Josh Manson. "I feel great and that's the sense I've been getting throughout the room. We're excited to get home, so we want to end this on the right note. Winning this one tonight is crucial for us."

Reports out of the morning skate at Xcel Energy Center suggest John Gibson (21-14-8, 2.36 GAA, .918 SV%) getting the start for Anaheim. He's been strong as of late - spectacular at times - but a porous defense in front of him has given him little help over the course of this road trip that has seen the Ducks win just one of the five games thus far (1-3-1). He'll go up against Devan Dubnyk, who leads the NHL in wins (31), goals-against average (1.99) and save percentage (.933), while ranking tied for fourth in shutouts (5). Dubnyk is 24-3-2 in his last 29 games, posting a 2.17 GAA, .925 SV% and one shutout since November 23.

Despite showing improvement from a lower-body injury that's kept him out of the last four games, defenseman Sami Vatanen will not play tonight according to head coach Randy Carlyle. Vatanen was injured on February 3 at Florida and has since resumed practice. Anaheim's next game won't be until Friday when the club returns home to face the Panthers at Honda Center.

Ondrej Kase could also draw back into the lineup after being a healthy scratch on Saturday. If he plays, expect him to replace Jared Boll on the fourth line with Joseph Cramarossa and Nate Thompson.

The Ducks will look to avoid being swept by the Wild, which has taken the first two games of the season series (a 2-1 win on January 8 at Honda Center and a 5-3 victory on January 21 at Xcel Energy Center). For what it's worth, the Wild has never swept the Ducks in a season series.

"You can send a message to the league when you knock off the top teams," said Manson. "Every team in the league can beat you on any night, but when a team that's high up in the standings gets knocked off, that's when people take notice.

"It comes to down to a couple of things. Our game has been trending in the right direction. We know we can do it, but it's a matter of going out and doing it."

Jordan Schroeder is expected to be the lone scratch for Minnesota, while Matt Dumba will miss his second consecutive game because of a lower-body injury. Rookie Alex Tuch, recalled from Iowa of the American Hockey League yesterday, will skate on Minnesota's top line with Nino Niederreiter and Eric Stall. Tuch, 20, was selected in the first round (18th overall) of the 2014 NHL Draft and had 25 points (12g/13a) in 35 games during his rookie season with Iowa at the time of his recall.

"They've had a tremendous amount of success in this building," said Carlyle, on Minnesota's 19-6-1 record on home ice. "The last time we were here we kind of gave them the hockey game. We had a 3-1 lead. We'd like to revisit that one again. They've earned the right to be where they're at."

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