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Preview: Ducks Begin Two-Game Road Trip in Minnesota

by Kyle Shohara @kyleshohara /

The Pacific Division-leading Ducks (26-13-9, 61 pts.) begin their final road trip of January when they take on the Minnesota Wild (29-10-5, 63 pts.) tonight at Xcel Energy Center (6 p.m. PT, Prime Ticket/AM 830). The Ducks are coming off a 2-0-1 homestand that saw the team earn wins over Tampa Bay and Colorado, and pick up five of a possible six points. The Ducks enter tonight's game having held opponents to two goals or less in nine consecutive games (9 GA total).

Tonight represents just the third road game of the month for the Ducks after going 2-0 in Colorado and Arizona between January 12-14. Anaheim has earned points in 13 of the last 14 games (9-1-4, 22 pts.) and in five consecutive road games (3-0-2, 8 pts.). The club's nine wins and 21 points since Christmas rank second in the NHL behind only Washington (10-1-2, 22 pts.). In addition, Anaheim has allowed the fewest goals in the league since Christmas with 19 (Vancouver is second with 21 GA, having played one less game). On the penalty kill, the Ducks are 40-for-45 for an 88.9% that co-leads the league since December 25. Anaheim is also 8-1-1 in January, matching November (8-4-2) for its most wins in a single month this season.

Tonight's contest marks the second of three games between the Ducks and Wild this season. The Ducks are 29-19-9 all-time against the Wild, including an 11-10-7 record in Minnesota. In addition, the Ducks are 8-3-0 in the last 11 games against the Wild. Anaheim and Minnesota opened the season series on January 8 at Honda Center, a 2-1 Wild victory. Ryan Kesler's 36 points (25g/11a) in 57 games lead all active Ducks in career scoring vs. Minnesota. These two clubs will complete the season set back here in St. Paul on Tuesday, February 14 (5 p.m. PT).

The Ducks begin this two-game road trip fresh off a 2-1 victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night. Despite out-shooting the Avs 22-3 after the opening period, the Ducks found themselves in a hole when Gabriel Landeskog's power-play goal at the 14:04 mark of the second period put his club up, 1-0. After Hampus Lindholm tied the game with a power-play goal of his own at the 7:17 mark of the third period, Nick Ritchie scored the eventual game winner with 2:02 remaining in regulation to lift the Ducks to a 2-1 win. John Gibson stopped 21-of-22 shots to improve his record this season to 19-10-8.

Following tonight's game, the Ducks travel to Winnipeg to conclude the road trip on Monday (5 p.m. PT) at the MTS Centre. Upcoming milestones include Randy Carlyle one win shy of 300 in his career with Anaheim (299-195-70, 564 games), Kevin Bieksa one assist away of 200 career NHL assists and Hampus Lindholm one goal from surpassing Ruslan Salei (26) for sole possession of 10th on the franchise's all-time goals list for defensemen.

Tonight's contest marks the third game of a four-game homestand for the Wild, who are coming off a 4-3 victory over the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday. Nino Niederreiter scored two power-play goals, including the tiebreaker with 7:06 remaining in the third period to give Minnesota its seventh victory over the last 10 games (7-2-1). Former Ducks right wing Chris Stewart also scored in the victory for Minnesota, which has only lost three times in any fashion over the last 21 games (18-2-1).

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