The Ducks have historically dominated Minnesota - defeating them nine times over the teams' last 10 matchups - but tonight, a slumping Ducks team is encountering a surging Wild club. At 19-4-2, the Wild have the best record in the NHL since January 15, and a loss to Minnesota will officially mark the longest losing streak of our season.
Frederik Andersen has allowed two or fewer goals in his last eight starts on the road, going 5-2-1 with a 1.76 GAA. He also stopped 48 of Minnesota's 53 shot attempts against the Ducks in those victories. However, Eric Stephens reports from the morning skate that Bruce Boudreau is giving John Gibson a chance to get right back on the horse after having given up six goals on only 23 shots (and four on only seven in the final 40 minutes) Wednesday night in Calgary.
Also from Stephens at the morning skate, Matt Beleskey looks ready to re-enter the lineup after having missed 12 games since being injured on Feb. 15 against Washington. Sami Vatanen, remains out, but the reassignment of Josh Manson to Norfolk would seem to indicate that he is getting close.
As he has been for every game that Minnesota has played since acquiring him on Jan. 15, Devan Dubnyk will be in net for the Wild. Dubnyk made 30 saves against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday for an NHL goalie-best 17 victories since Jan. 27. He also has a history of success against the Ducks, stopping 35 shots in a 2-1 shootout win while still playing for the Arizona Coyotes.
What Can We Learn From This Game?:
This is the oldest hockey cliche in the book, but we will see if the Ducks will be able to play a full 60 minutes of hockey. Once again, the Ducks started out well against Calgary - Ryan Getzlaf scored twice in three minutes, setting a franchise record - but the Ducks subsequently took the pedal off of the gas, and the game collapsed quickly after that. Our role players will also need to shake off the rust/step up/whatever motivating cliche can be used here. Kyle Palmieri, in particular, has been unusually bad.
I would also like to see this team distance itself from the kind of sloppy dump-and-chase hockey that has personified us as of late. The Ducks are at their best when they are fast and aggressive, creating opportunities on the ice. Don't get passive in the defensive zone. The Ducks have looked like pylons on the ice as of late, and we, as fans, know they are capable of so much more.
There has been a vigorous debate in the comments of many AC game recaps about whether the Ducks' struggles are because of players' inabilities to execute the system properly, or if the system itself is needs to be scrapped entirely. Though I tend to believe that the former is the case (unfortunately), I am willing to see if the Bruce Boudreau Line Generator/Mixing Machine is able to create some magic going forward. The Ducks have battled injuries all season (and it's arguable that Corey Perry never fully recovered from his), so I choose to remain optimistic.
Though the Ducks have historically been victorious on the road in Minnesota, their margins of victory have been small (five one-goal victories in five visits). I predict much of the same tonight. Ducks win, 4-3.