Minnesota Wild (4-2-1: 9 points, 5th in Western Conference, T-1st in Northwest Division) vs. Anaheim Ducks (3-1-1: 7 points, T-7th in Western Conference, 2nd in Pacific Division)
The Minnesota Wild skates into Anaheim to face the Ducks on a two game win streak after taking a pair of back-to-back home wins earlier this week. The Wild still searches for its first win on the road and tonight marks a good test against the Ducks, second in the Pacific Division. Last season, the two teams split a four-game series. Tonight’s game opens a three-game season series between the clubs. Minnesota didn’t practice yesterday, as the team was traveling to California.
In the Wild’s last outing, the big story was the offensive contributions from forwards not named Dany Heatley, Mikko Koivu or Zach Parise. The team’s top line was carrying the offensive load through the first six games, but the club needs ancillary scoring from its other lines. The Wild hopes its last outing will jump-start production from its other nine forwards.
The Wild topped the Chicago Blackhawks in a 3-2 shootout victory at Xcel Energy Center on Wednesday in front of a national audience on NBC Sports Network. It was the third-largest television audience for a regular-season game in the Network’s history. Matt Cullen scored his first of the season only 90 seconds into the game, with assists going to Devin Setoguchi and Mikael Granlund. After two Blackhawk tallies, Cal Clutterbuck scored his first of the year on a backhand tip from Tom Gilbert. In the shootout, Zach Parise and Cullen scored, while Niklas Backstrom saved 2-of-3 Hawks to preserve the victory. Backstrom came into the game in the first period in relief of Josh Harding, saving all 28 shots he faced for the win.
In its last outing, the Ducks fell to the San Jose Sharks in a shootout, 3-2. Anaheim was paced by goals from Francois Beauchemin and Matt Beleskey. Ducks netminder Jonas Hiller made 16 saves in the loss.
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|Mikko Koivu’s older brother, Saku, leads the team in scoring with 7 points (1-6=7). Finnish countryman and ageless wonder, Teemu Selanne, has three goals and two assists on the year. Ryan Getzlaf (2-3=5) and Corey Perry (1-3=4) are the Ducks’ other top offensive threats. ||It’s a nice gesture, but is unlikely tonight against the Wild—for every game (home and away), if the Ducks score 5 or more goals, fan can bring their game tickets or go to anaheimducks.com/hooters to print out a coupon for free Wings at all So Cal Hooters locations. |
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|Tom Gilbert has been an offensive powerhouse to start the year. With an assist Wednesday, he holds a four-game point streak (2-4=6). Entering play Thursday, he was T-8th in scoring among all NHL defensemen with six points in seven games this season. He’s faired well against Anaheim, totaling 13 points (2-11=13) in 16 career games against the Ducks. |
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|At the morning skate, Matt Cullen was on the second line, while Pierre-Marc Bouchard flipped to the third: |
Parise – Koivu – Heatley
Cullen – Granlund – Setoguchi
Bouchard – Brodziak – Clutterbuck
Mitchell – Konopka – Powe
The defensive pairings were the same:
Suter – Brodin
Gilbert – Stoner
Falk – Scandella
The Wild will ride the hot hand of Niklas Backstrom. Last season against the Ducks, he was 1-1-0 with a .900 save percentage and a 2.51 goals against average. Backstrom is 8-5-0 with a 2.43 goal against average, a .917 save percentage and one shutout in 13 career starts against Anaheim.
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|It’s a stride, but we’ve got another big test tomorrow. In the very early part of the year, we’ve go to get wins, no questions. As much as anything else, we’ve got to get to our game and how quickly we can get there. |
- Yeo after last night’s win on the Wild finding its game
|Forward Matt Kassian and defenseman Nate Prosser will be tonight's healthy scratches. |
Jared Spurgeon participated in the morning skate but is still day-to-day with a lower body injury.
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|RW Brad Staubitz accrued 246 PIM in 114 games for the Wild (2010-12). ||With last season’s series split between the Wild and Ducks, the road team won every time. |
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|Wild at Ducks will be broadcast locally in high definition on FOX Sports Nort with a start time at 9:00 p.m. The game can be heard on KFAN 100.3 FM or online at Wild.com. |
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