After a fun day at practice yesterday, it was all business at the Minnesota Wild’s morning skate before taking on the Anaheim Ducks.
The Ducks own the best record in the National Hockey League, and have been especially deadly at home. Anaheim has only one regulation loss at Honda Center this season, a 3-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Jan. 21.
The Wild looks to end its regular-season series against the Ducks on a high note tonight at Honda Center. Minnesota has dropped a pair of close games against the Ducks, including an overtime loss in the second game of the season at Xcel Energy Center.
So, expect another tight contest. There will be a few crucial facets of the game Minnesota will be keying in on tonight.
The Wild will need to continue its disciplined game and stay out of the box. Minnesota has only been shorthanded three times in the previous two games, not allowing a power play goal. Meanwhile, Anaheim’s power play is clicking at 24.2 percent at home.
“Special teams is always crucial,” Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said after the skate. “It has cost a lot of games in the is building.”
Penalty kill specialist Matt Cooke said that it will be important to not give the Ducks too many chances. Of course there are incidental penalties, but the Wild can help its chances of staying out of the box by moving their feet. When players start to reach and stop moving their feet is when the refs love to make calls. Cooke’s full WildTV interview is below.
Another crucial aspect of tonight’s matchup will be in the faceoff circle. In the team’s last outing against San Jose, it was not only losing draws, but also losing them cleanly. That’s a problem in the puck possession game—especially in the defensive zone. Losing cleanly in the D-zone allows the attacking team to run set faceoff plays which leads to more quality scoring chances. Minnesota doesn’t want to get behind the eight ball in the puck possession game against the Ducks. At the end of the morning skate, the Wild’s centermen were working on faceoffs with Wild Assistant Coach Darby Hendrickson.
Yeo said that Mikael Granlund was the team’s best pivot against San Jose. The center spoke to WildTV about the difficulties of taking draws on the road versus at home. He acknowledged the centers have to be better, but it’s also important for their wings to win the secondary battle if the puck is not won cleanly. His full comments are in the video below.
Goaltender Darcy Kuemper is set to make his eighth-straight start in net, which continues to set the Wild season-high record for rookie goaltenders.
Fourth Line, Game Time
After the morning skate, Yeo didn’t acknowledge which winger would be on the fourth line tonight. Both Mike Rupp and Jason Zucker took rushes with Erik Haula and Torrey Mitchell.
Obviously, they both bring very different skill sets to the ice. With Rupp in the lineup, Yeo said he “helps everyone play a little bigger and with more confidence.”