By Kyle Shohara
Following a game that head coach Bruce Boudreau simply described as “ridiculous,” the Ducks close out their three-game road trip tonight in St. Paul against one of the hottest teams in the NHL. And like Wednesday night against the Flames, tonight’s opponent is every bit as desperate.
The Minnesota Wild enters tonight’s game holding the first wild card spot with 81 points (37-23-7) through 68 games. Though five points away from Chicago for second place in the Central, the Wild holds a three-point lead on the Winnipeg Jets with a game in hand. Winnipeg’s loss last night in Florida, coupled with LA’s victory at Vancouver, saw the Jets get bumped out of the final wild card spot.
Devan Dubnyk will make his 26th consecutive start for the Wild, which is 8-2-0 in its past 10 games.
John Gibson will make his second consecutive start for the Ducks, and Matt Beleskey will return to the lineup after missing the previous 12 games with an upper-body injury. Beleskey should give the Ducks a much-needed boost, both in offense and physical play. Beleskey ranks third on the team in goals (21) and ranks tied for second in plus-minus (+13).
“He’s got 21 goals and he’s a physical player,” Boudreau said. “How many people would want that on your team? I would venture to guess quite a few.”
“He’s been great all year,” said teammate Andrew Cogliano. “His shot is such a weapon out there, he has a chance to score every time he shoots. He adds another element. He’s physical, he plays the game hard and he’s the type of player you want in these games because it’s a playoff-type atmosphere.”
Cogliano also says having Beleskey back will help settle the line combinations. “He’s going to help us. Not only will he be good, but he’ll push guys into certain spots where they’ll feel more comfortable.”
Beleskey skated with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry this morning, and it appears Patrick Maroon will be a healthy scratch for the first time this season. Maroon has gone pointless in his last 10 games and has three points (1g/2a) over his last 19.
“Right now, we’re playing to win,” said Boudreau. “If it takes 12 games before somebody gets in, then it takes 12 games. We want to play what we perceive to be the best team we can ice every night.”LINE COMBINATIONS
Matt Beleskey-Ryan Getzlaf-Corey Perry
Tomas Fleischmann-Ryan Kesler-Jakob Silfverberg
Emerson Etem-Rickard Rakell-Kyle Palmieri
Andrew Cogliano-Nate Thompson-Jiri Sekac
Cam Fowler-Simon Despres
Hampus Lindholm-Francois Beauchemin
Clayton Stoner-James Wisniewski
The three-game series between Anaheim and Minnesota wraps up tonight at Xcel Energy Center. The Ducks have won the first two games of the season series, including a 2-1 win on Oct. 17 at Honda Center and a 5-4 victory on Dec. 5 in Minnesota. Anaheim has won seven of the last eight games vs. Minnesota along with a franchise-best five consecutive games at Xcel Energy Center. All-time, the Ducks are 26-17-9 vs. the Wild and 10-9-7 on the road. Perry (17-15=32), Getzlaf (8-24=32) and Kesler (24-8=32) lead Anaheim players in career scoring vs. the Wild.