ANAHEIM -- Almost every player and coach has dreams about the sort of return to face his former team that Bruce Boudreau just had.
On Saturday, with a 4-3 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Kings, the Minnesota Wild clinched the best point percentage in the Central Division, through Tuesday, meaning Boudreau will return to Staples Center to coach in the NHL All-Star Game on Jan. 29.
On Sunday, the Wild played a tight, structured game to defeat the Anaheim Ducks 2-1 in Boudreau's first game at Honda Center since the Ducks fired him April 29, two days after losing in Game 7 to the Nashville Predators in the Western Conference First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Monday is Boudreau's 62nd birthday.
Apparently, he received his presents early this year.
Video: MIN@ANA: Dumba buries Parise's feed for PPG
Boudreau is as candid a coach as there is in the NHL. He conducted a litany of interviews the past few days and didn't hide the fact that he knew he would be nervous on the bench and unsettled in the time leading up to the game. After all, he had gone through the same catalogue of feelings when he returned to Verizon Center to face the Washington Capitals for the first time after he was fired, with the Ducks on Dec. 23, 2013.
Afterward, Boudreau was asked if he was glad that it was over, that there would be no more questions about coming back to Anaheim.
"I love it," he said. "Are you kidding me? When you win, it's easy to face the questions. It's always great coming back. I saw an awful lot of people that I knew and treated me really well when I was here."
Boudreau made sure his players recognized the importance of their game against the Ducks.
Even though he didn't specifically address the importance of the game for him on a personal level, only the most disconnected of players could have missed the signs.
"We could tell he was looking forward to it," Wild forward Zach Parise said. "Subtle hints he had been giving for about a week now, that we knew how important it was for him.
"It's the same if you're a player and playing against your former team. You want to win that game really bad."
In fact, it didn't sound as though the hints were that subtle.
"He would just drop it a couple of times about the Anaheim game and looking forward to it," Parise said. "And he said some stuff this morning. He was implying, 'Let's get that Anaheim game.'"
Video: MIN@ANA: Spurgeon rips wrister, gives Wild first lead
Boudreau's impact was almost instantaneous when he took over in Washington and in Anaheim. He won four Pacific Division titles with the Ducks, and after 39 games, it is clear his touch remains intact this season. After their 12-game winning streak ended in a 4-2 home loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Dec. 31, the Wild took five of a possible six points on their West Coast trip.
Boudreau spoke last week about what impressed him the most about the Wild, now that he has had an up-close look for almost half the season.
"Our skating as a whole for the team is really good," he said. "I've come to realize you don't have to have a big, physical team like I had in Washington and in Anaheim for almost 10 years.
"To be successful, we can still play the same way and use our legs and our speed, winning more by committee because we don't have that one superstar that I've been able to have on the other two teams."
His point was illustrated Sunday against the Ducks. The Wild's two goals came from defensemen Matt Dumba and Jared Spurgeon. Goaltender Devan Dubnyk won his 21st game of the season.
Boudreau won the first game he coached back in Washington after the Capitals fired him.
So did the experience of having gone through a return once before help him Sunday?
The answer was classic Boudreau.
"No, because I don't want to get fired anymore," he said. "I don't want to keep getting that experience."