The Ducks (9-6-1, 19 points) reach the midway point of a season-high seven-game homestand tonight when they host the Minnesota Wild (4-9-1, nine points) at Honda Center. (7 p.m. PT, TV: Prime Ticket, Radio: AM 830). With a 6-1-1 mark (13 points) through their first eight home games, the Ducks trail only the 2013-14 team (8-0) and 2012-13 squad (7-1-0) for the best home starts in team history. Unfortunately, the Ducks came up short in a 3-2 overtime loss on Sunday night against the Chicago Blackhawks, giving them their first OTL of the season. Despite the loss, their 9-6-1 mark this season continues to represent the best start through 16 games over the past five seasons.
Earlier today, Ducks head coach Dallas Eakins confirmed Ondrej Kase will return to the lineup tonight after missing the past five games with an upper-body injury. Eakins says having Kase back should give the club a boost, especially in the early stages of games. "He's such a great energy guy," he said. "It starts right when he walks into the rink in the morning. He has a smile on his face. He loves to practice. You can see his energy and his passion for the game. That's really contagious. He's a bit like that battery commercial on TV, the Energizer Bunny."
Eakins adds, "[His energy] early in games can definitely help [the team's sluggish starts as of late]. On the other side, I just want him to settle in. We're going to put him with a couple of very familiar linemates, and see where he goes. He's been out for a little bit now, so it's really important to put him in a spot where he can have success and manage his minutes."
With Kase back in the lineup, the Ducks will look to get back on track tonight against a Wild team that has lost three in a row and four of their past five. This is the opener of a season-long four-game, 10-day road trip for Minnesota, which has gone just 1-8-0 away from home this season. The Wild is led in scoring by veteran center Eric Staal, who has 10 points (4g/6a) in 14 games. Staal is riding a four-game point streak (2g/3a) and has nine points (4g/5a) in his past seven. Minnesota's defensemen have also been contributing offensively, recording 31 (9g/22a) of the team's 89 points (33g/56a) this season. The Wild ranks first in the NHL in percentage of goals (27.3%), assists (39.3%) and points (34.8%) by d-men.
Former Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau is in his fourth season as the bench boss of the Wild after being named to the position on May 7, 2016. In his four seasons with Minnesota, Boudreau has a record of 135-96-29 (.575). Boudreau coached the Ducks from 2011-16, posting a 208-104-40 mark. Wild assistant coach Bob Woods served as an assistant coach with the Ducks from 2011-14.
This is the opener of a three-game season series between the two clubs, which has seen the Ducks post a 34-21-10 all-time mark vs. the Wild. Anaheim has gone 19-10-4 all-time at home vs. Minnesota, has won four of the past five (4-1-0) and has points in six of the past seven (5-1-1) overall. Ryan Getzlaf, who tonight will be honored with a special pregame ceremony in recognition of his 1,000th NHL game on Sunday, leads active Ducks in career scoring vs. Minnesota with 35 points (8g/27a) in 45 games. Adam Henrique has points in 10 of his past 11 vs. the Wild (13 points, 7g/6a), along with 16 points (7g/9a) and a +11 rating in 15 career contests against Minnesota.