By Kyle Shohara
It figures to be another tight-checking defensive battle tonight as the Ducks host the Minnesota Wild in a rare 7:30 p.m. PT contest at Honda Center.
Three of the last four contests against the Wild have been one-goal games, including the series opener, a 4-3 Ducks overtime victory in St. Paul on Oct. 5.
Head coach Bruce Boudreau said his team will need to be mentally strong to come out successful tonight.
“They’re a good team,” he said. “They’re well-structured. They don’t allow a lot of goals. Every game is almost a one-goal game. Mental toughness is going to be a big part of this game [tonight]. You need everybody playing. If you don’t have everybody playing, you’re going to be in trouble.”
Adds Boudreau, “Last time we played them, our goalie (Jonas Hiller) played great, thank goodness, because they were in our zone the whole night. We’re going to have to play an awful lot better than we did the other night if we want to beat these guys.”
To a man, the Ducks knew they didn’t have the start they wanted two nights ago against the New York Islanders. Teemu Selanne said that’ll have to change tonight against a Wild team that’s only six points behind the Ducks.
“We want to be ready,” he said. “We want to play the whole 60 minutes. We still want to make sure this is our barn and we want to take advantage of home ice, the fans, and everything. This is a team that wants to beat us.”
Selanne said the Ducks need to focus solely on what they can control. “I wouldn’t think too much about what they do. The main focus is what we can do. We try to execute our game plan as good as we can. There are no easy games. The day you start thinking it’s going to be easy, you’re in trouble. The last game was one of those, and hopefully we learned something.”
The 43-year-old also attributed much of the team’s home success this season to its loyal fans. “The fans are like our sixth or seventh player out there,” he said. “You try to suck all the energy from them, too. When you see the fans excited, that’s awesome.”
Hiller is expected to get the start in net tonight. He made 30 saves in Anaheim’s 4-3 overtime victory over the Wild at the Xcel Energy Center on Oct. 5.
The Ducks also recalled defenseman Nolan Yonkman from the Norfolk Admirals of the American Hockey League. The 32-year-old defenseman earned one assist in two games with the Ducks this season. At the time of his original recall (Nov. 23), Yonkman co-led the Admirals in appearances and ranked third in penalty minutes.
INJURED DUCKS NEARING RETURN?
Francois Beauchemin, Mathieu Perreault and Jakob Silfverberg were on the ice this morning, and Boudreau said there’s a chance both Silfverberg and Beauchemin see game action on the upcoming road trip. Silfverberg has missed the last 22 games because of a broken right hand suffered on Oct. 25 at Ottawa, while Beauchemin has been out for the past nine contests due to an upper-body injury on Nov. 20 against New Jersey.
“I’m hoping [Silfverberg] sees action on the road trip,” Boudreau said. “He’s in great shape because we’ve been skating him for a while. As soon as he gets the OK to play, I don’t think it’ll be long after that.
“Beauch looked not bad today,” added Boudreau . “I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s playing [on Tuesday] in Detroit.”
Yesterday, Perreault said his plan was to practice today with hopes of returning to the lineup on Sunday against the Edmonton Oilers.
Though Mark Fistric didn’t skate today, Boudreau said the rugged defenseman is still day-to-day. “He’s feeling a lot better. He’s still sore. He did some work in the gym today, but we’ll see how he is tomorrow. Players talk about wanting to skate, and I just say ‘Okay,’ but we’ll see where it leads.” Fistric was injured in Monday's game against the Isles.
Anaheim and Minnesota play the second of a three-game season series tonight at Honda Center. The Ducks earned a 4-3 OT victory on Oct. 5 at Xcel Energy Center, courtesy of a two-point performance and overtime winner from Mathieu Perreault. Anaheim owns an all-time record of 23-16-9 vs. the Wild, including a 14-7-2 mark at Honda Center. Anaheim enters tonight's game on a club-best five-game winning streak vs. Minnesota, having swept last season's three-game set (3-0-0) along with a 2-1 win on Feb. 14, 2012. In addition, the Ducks have won two straight at Honda Center over the Wild. Teemu Selanne leads Anaheim skaters in career scoring vs. the Wild, collecting 32 points (11g/21a) in 42 games. The season series will conclude on Jan. 28 at Honda Center.