The Minnesota Wild now has the chance to prove this ownership of the Western Conference’s best record is no fluke. Sure, the Wild has taken care of business at home, but the reason this club is where it is as we play into December is its ability to gather points on the road. The Wild is 6-3-2 on the road and will now play the next five contests away from Xcel Energy Center. It starts tonight against the Anaheim Ducks.
The Wild closed a stretch of seven out of eight home games with a 4-2 triumph over the New Jersey Devils on Friday. Kyle Brodziak led the Wild attack with a pair of goals, with Dany Heatley and Casey Wellman also scoring. Josh Harding didn’t earn the win, but he was instrumental in the victory, playing the final two periods and stopping all 22 shots faced. Nik Backstrom, who left the game after the first with a lower body injury, took the “W” with seven saves on nine shots.
The Ducks are playing their second game under new Head Coach Bruce Boudreau tonight. The first was one they’d like to forget. The Ducks built a 3-0 lead against the Philadelphia Flyers on goals by Andrew Cogliano, Teemu Selanne and Andrew Gordon, but an eventual collapse in the third period led to a 4-3 overtime loss for the Ducks. Jonas Hiller took the loss despite making a season-high 43 stops.
Wild at Ducks will be broadcast locally in high definition on Fox Sports North with a start time at 7:00 PM. The game can be heard on KFAN 100.3 FM or online at Wild.com.
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Believe it or not, Orange County isn’t entirely made up of filthy rich housewives who hang out together and then typically come to blows over a purse. There are actually some redeeming people in Anaheim, and yes, most of them are kids. Some of those kids are in need, so the Ducks are hosting their Toy Drive this month and fans are asked to bring new, unwrapped toys to tonight’s game.
Did the Ducks just get a little more likable after ridding themselves of their curmudgeon head coach, Randy Carlyle? That remains to be seen, but those who watched last year’s HBO documentary 24/7 saw that Boudreau can have a rather fiery temper as well. Of course, he was a little more lovable considering he would do interviews with pizza sauce on his face.
Boudreau has some work to do, however. Despite legitimate stars up front and on the backend, the Ducks seem to find ways to give games away. That’s exactly what happened on Friday, when they gave the Flyers nine power plays, including in overtime.
In the last two games, Brodziak has scored three goals and added a shootout game-winner. That’s considered a hot streak, especially in Brodziak’s case considering he hadn’t scored in back-to-back games since the game before and the game after the 2010 Olympic Break. Brodziak’s recent surge has him tied atop the Wild goal scoring leaderboard with Devin Setoguchi and Matt Cullen.
Backstrom’s injury isn’t believed to be overly serious, but it will be enough to keep him out of tonight’s game. The club recalled Matt Hackett yesterday, but the net will again belong to Harding, who is enjoying a stellar season after missing all of last year with a devastating knee injury. Harding’s 1.96 goals against average ranks fourth in the NHL.
Cal Clutterbuck took part in today’s early morning skate after missing the New Jersey game because of a charley horse. He’ll find himself on a line with Nick Johnson and Brodziak, who he teamed up with at the beginning of the season.
Wellman’s strong performance earned him another start on the second line, but Head Coach Mike Yeo warned that there may be a lot of shuffling tonight:
Justin Falk (upper body) was placed on injured reserve on Saturday and did not travel with the team. Backstrom (lower body) is out. Clutterbuck (charley horse) is probable. Guillaume Latendresse (concussion) and Marek Zidlicky (concussion) are out indefinitely.
"I know with the personnel that [the Ducks] have over there, they believe they’re a playoff team. They know that they have to make a push starting right now.”
- Mike Yeo on why he expects Anaheim’s best tonight
Injured LW Jason Blake is a native of Moorhead and injured D Matt Smaby is from Minneapolis. RW Andrew Gordon played his college hockey at St. Cloud State.
The Wild has won eight games this year when trailing or tied after two periods.