WILD (16-7-3) at DUCKS (7-13-5)
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: Minnesota 8-2-0; Anaheim 2-6-2.
: This is the third of four meetings. Minnesota and Anaheim split the first two, with each team winning 3-2 on the road. The Wild's win in the most recent meeting, on Nov. 13, started a five-game win streak – and also kicked off a seven-game skid for the Ducks.
: Anaheim is looking to build on the momentum generated by Friday's 4-3 overtime loss to Philadelphia, its first game under new coach Bruce Boudreau. That's a tall order against a Wild team entering Sunday with three wins in a row and the early perch atop the Western Conference.
: Minnesota lost first-choice goalie Nicklas Backstrom to a first-period lower body injury Friday night against New Jersey, but replacement Josh Harding
shone bright once again. Harding stopped all 22 shots with the same efficacy that's helped him compile a 6-2-1 record in 11 starts.
"I thought (Harding) was great," coach Mike Yeo said. "They had some real flurries, some real scrambles around our net, and he stood tall."
Though Harding deserves the lion's share of the credit, the Wild defense blocked 24 shot attempts to hold the Devils scoreless for the final 46 minutes – just another example of Minnesota's newfound ability to ice games away.
"We weren't at our best, but we found a way to win," Kyle Brodziak
: While the Wild are off to the best start in franchise history, Anaheim is enduring one of its worst. The Ducks lone win in nine games – Wednesday's 4-1 defeat of Montreal – was tempered by the sudden firing of coach Randy Carlyle later that evening. In his first game behind the Anaheim bench, Boudreau – who had a record game-to-game turnaround after being fired by Washington on Monday – saw an early 3-0 Anaheim lead disintegrate against Philadelphia.
While the new coach wasn't happy with his team's 11 minor penalties – the last of which gifted the Flyers the winning power play – he said there was a lot to like.
"There are a lot of positives," Boudreau said. "First of all, there is more skill up front than I thought there was. The energy and enthusiasm on the bench was really good. Everybody left everything they had on the ice. It wasn't a question of people not giving it their all. They tried hard. But in the end, you can't overcome making dumb mistakes."
: Brodziak pulled himself into a tie for the team goal lead with two tallies against New Jersey. The Wild center, who also scored the game before against Edmonton, now has eight on the season to along with five assists.
: In Anaheim, backup goalie Dan Ellis
is out 1-2 weeks with a strained groin, while Matt Smaby
(right thumb), Jason Blake
(left wrist), George Parros
(left eye) and Lubomir Visnovsky
(broken finger) are all on injured reserve as they recover from respective surgeries. … Backstrom will be out of the lineup, and top-line winger Cal Clutterbuck
is questionable (thigh). Clutterbuck sat out against New Jersey after leaving the Edmonton game with the injury. Mike Lundin
(back spasms), Guillaume Latendresse
(concussion), Justin Falk
(back spasms) and Marek Zidlicky
(concussion) are on the IR.
: Before play Saturday, Anaheim Led the league in a solitary category: penalty minutes. The Ducks added 10 PIMs on 11 minor penalties to their impressive totals of 130 and 397, respectively. And while they do kill penalties 85 percent of the time, three of the Flyers' four goals came with Anaheim stretched.
: "I think he did a really good job. He must be frustrated too about the penalties. He knew that this team has a penalty problem. He said after the game that everybody is trying so hard and giving everything we have. We got the point, but nobody is very happy about that point. We needed two." – Anaheim alternate captain and leading scorer Teemu Selanne on new coach Bruce Boudreau's first game