The Minnesota Wild looked remarkable at one point this season. For starters, they were the last team in the NHL to finally surrender a goal... coming in the only previous meeting between these two teams during the Anaheim Ducks' home opener.
Since then, their place atop the central division and the NHL have disappeared, but their notable improvement has not. The Wild lead the NHL in 5v5 Fenwick for, clocking in at 55.9%, and have a PDO of 98.83. If anything, those numbers suggest that the Wild will only continue to improve and become even more brutal of a team to play against.
Yet they have fallen just outside the West's playoff picture. Combine that with the fact that they still don't have an outdoor game, and it's friggin' cold as hell up there now, and you have a situation that's not really all that pleasant. (Methinks the two may be slightly related, no?)
Likewise, with the Ducks defense becoming more and more porous to relentless offenses lately (thanks in large part due to injury), this one could be more than a little rough to watch.
Minnesota is for the most part healthy with one major exception: defensive stalwart and minute-eater Ryan Suter has been diagnosed with... you guessed it: mumps. Coach Mike Yeo hasn't ruled him out officially just yet, but he'll more than likely miss. Other than that, Matt Cooke continues to be sidelined with what the team is calling a "lower body injury." That's it.
Anaheim... well you know the drill. Ben Lovejoy, Eric Brewer, and Francois Beauchemin continue to all heal their various broken ailments and will continue to miss. John Gibson and Dany Heatley both continue to recover from what are believed to be groin injuries.
The Ducks have not yet officially signed Ilya Bryzgalov as of this writing so he will not be joining the Ducks on the bench just yet, meaning Igor Bobkov will likely once again be the backup goaltender. However, the newest Duck officially, defenseman Colby Robak, will be in the lineup for his Ducks debut tonight.
What Can We Learn From This Game:
The Minnesota Wild have been excellent at home this season, sporting a record of 8-2-1 to this point on the season. And with the way coach Mike Yeo has this team playing, going into the Twin Cities and pulling out a win will not be easy. However, aside from the fact that this one is out on the road, it's just more of the same for the Ducks who are now second in the league in terms of man-games lost.
Resiliency and tenacity are once again going to have to be key for the Ducks to walk away with two points. Likewise, adaptability will come in to play as the Ducks will be dressing their 20th different defenseman in the last three seasons. You want to talk about a lack of depth and stability there...
Anaheim somehow makes Minnesota forget they're even playing a game without Ryan Suter by allowing 40+ shots on goal.
Oh, and I take a bench selfie at some point this season with Ilya Bryzgalov.