Minnesota comes into this game having won three of their last four games, including wins over Chicago and San Jose, while the Ducks have pulled standings points out of their last six contests.
Keys to the Game: First of all, Michael Russo from the Star-Tribune has everything you need to know about this game from the Minnesota side. I'm sure Hockey Wilderness will have some good stuff to, but c'mon Russo's the man.
One interesting little story line to this game is that Minnesota just called up Jason Zucker from the Iowa Wild (creative, RIP Chops) of the AHL. Not only is that notable because he is a native of Newport Beach, but you may also remember him as the guy Corey Perry nearly decapitated last season, for which he was suspended four games. According to Russo, Zucker will mostly fit in on the second line in Dany Heatley's place with Charlie Coyle and Nino Niederreiter.
Not that Bruce Boudreau is much of a matchy, matchy coach (that's an industry term), but that could cause some issues with a guy as skilled as Heatley slotting in on the fourth line, regardless of how poorly he may be playing at the moment.
While the Zucker call up may cause some mixing and matching of lines for the Wild, don't expect much to change on their top line. The Wild are one of the few teams that rely more on their top two goal scorers than the Ducks do. The interesting thing to me about that line of Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise and Jason Pominville is that they aren't the biggest line (Mikko's not small by any means at 6-3) but they do a lot of good hard work down low in the zone. It will be interesting to see if Boudreau prefers to have them go up against the size of the PPG line or his standard shut down line of Saku Koivu, Andrew Cogliano and Daniel Winnik with the final change.
Whether Boudreau tries to go head to head or brother vs. brother, expect them to see a steady diet of the new shutdown pair of Cam Fowler and Ben Lovejoy since the defense isn't getting any healthier any time soon. Mark Fistric won't play, according to Eric Stephens, after having left the game on Monday with an upper body injury (tennis elbow is my guess). Since they didn't call anyone up from Norfolk yesterday, my money is on Alex Grant to step into Fistric's spot after being a healthy scratch for the last four games.
What Can We Learn From this Game: The Ducks seem to be trying to find the exact equilibrium of how poorly they can play while still getting results for the past week or so (St. Louis aside, I suppose). So it would be nice to see if they can put together a full 60 minutes against a Wild team that has had some success against the top teams of the West in recent days.
More specifically, I'd like to find out where the second line has been hiding. Nick Bonino has been putting up pretty good points (four in his last three games, since Mathieu Perreault went out) but most of that has come from the power play. If we're being honest the Koivu line is currently the second line for the Ducks and even the fourth line with guys like Tim Jackman and Matt Beleskey are doing a better job of getting the puck deep into the opposition zone. They're not creating much in the way of offense, but at least it's 200 feet away from Hiller/Andersen.
Stay tuned here for updates throughout the day (lineup news, etc.) and start commenting. We'll have a quick stats pack shortly before puck drop for the in-game comments to flow.