Anaheim, CA - The Minnesota Wild (10-7-2) visit Honda Center tonight for the final time this season when they face off against the Anaheim Ducks. The Wild have won two straight and four out of their last five. Which means, the Wild are pretty hot right now. But, not hotter than our Ducks. They have won seven of their last eight games and finished the month of February with an 11-2-0 record. The Wild defeated the Phoenix Coyotes last night 4-3 and the Ducks last played Wednesday when they beat up on the Nashville Predators.
The Wild have struggled on the road so far this season, going just 3-5-1. However, they have one of the hottest goalies in the league right now. Goaltender Niklas Backstrom is 5-1-1 in his last seven games and has an overall record of 8-5-2 with a 2.22 GAA and a .918 SV %. They normally have to depend on their goaltending to win games, whether it’s Backstrom or Josh Harding or rookie Darcy Kuemper. They have some top end talent in Zach Parise, who leads the team with 8 G, Dany Heatley and Mikko Koivu, who is tied with Parise for the team lead in points (14). However, Heatley has been extremely inconsistent after a rather hot start. They have some nice complementary scorers as well in Devin Setoguchi and Pierre-Marc Bouchard, who leads the team in plus/minus (+4). They are missing one of their more valuable players right now in Cal Clutterbuck who is out with a thigh injury.
They have one of the deepest prospect pools in the league and their top prospect is forward Mikael Granlund. He made his much anticipated NHL debut this season and so far has 1 G and 5 A for 6 P. Some other youngsters have also dressed for the Wild this season, Jason Zucker (3 G, +2), Jonas Brodin (3 A, +2) and Charlie Coyle (1 G, -1). Forwards Kyle Brodziak, Matt Cullen and Zenon Konopka add some nice depth and solid role players. The Minnesota defense is led by Ryan Suter who has registered 12 A this season, which leads the team. However, he has posted a -4 rating so far. After Suter, their defense is not very notable, but solid with Tom Gilbert, Jared Spurgeon, Clayton Stoner, Justin Falk and Nate Prosser. A solid group that works well together.
The Minnesota offense has never really scored a ton of goals. This team is no exception, averaging just 2.16 goals per game (28th). Thanks to Backstrom and the rest of the goalies, they have always been pretty solid at not allowing too many goals. Once again, this team is no exception, allowing just 2.37 goals per game (8th). Their special teams numbers reflect off of these two stats. Their powerplay is going at 14.3 % (25th) and their penalty kill is going at 85.7 % (6th). This will be an interesting special teams battle as the Ducks currently have the BEST power play in the league (29.3 %) and have one of the worst penalty kills in the league (74.6 % and 28th). However, they have been getting better, but still not good enough. Overall, this is a Minnesota Wild team that cannot keep up with a high flying offense like the Ducks. Backstrom can keep them in the game with how good he is, but if the Ducks can break through for at least three goals, I would expect a victory for them.
The Ducks were technically off last night, but 13,000 attended an open practice at Honda Center that included a skills competition. They really dominated the Preds on Wednesday. They were fueled by Kyle Palmieri (3 G), Corey Perry (3 A), and Ryan Getzlaf (3 A). Both Getzlaf and Perry are especially hot right now. Getzlaf leads the team in points (21) and has 11 points in the last four games. Perry is tied for second in points with Saku Koivu (17) and has 11 points in the last six games. We all know Viktor Fasth is playing in net as well. It is likely that he will get Bruce Boudreau‘s nod to start in net, being the front end of a back-to-back. Cam Fowler has returned from injury. Sheldon Souray continues to surprise me and play very well. Francois Beauchemin continues to be a rock on the blue line for this franchise.
Tags: Anaheim Ducks Bruce Boudreau Cal Clutterbuck Cam Fowler Charlie Coyle Clayton Stoner Corey Perry Dany Heatley Darcy Kuemper Devin Setoguchi Francois Beauchemin Jared Spurgeon Jason Zucker Jonas Brodin Josh Harding Justin Falk Kyle Brodziak Kyle Palmieri Matt Cullen Mikael Granlund Mikko Koivu Minnesota Wild Nashville Predators Nate Prosser NHL Niklas Backstrom Phoenix Coyotes Pierre Marc-Bouchard Ryan Getzlaf Ryan Suter Saku Koivu Sheldon Souray Tom Gilbert Viktor Fasth Zach Parise Zenon Konopka