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Ducks @ Wild PREVIEW: Another Mid-West Matchup

Ducks look to get back to winning games, regain playoff spot.

NHL: Minnesota Wild at Anaheim Ducks Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Game #59

Anaheim Ducks @ Minnesota Wild

Saturday, February 17th, 11:00AM PST

Xcel Energy Center

TV: Prime

Radio: AM 830

Your Enemy: Hockey Wilderness

The Ducks enter the state of Hockey to face off against the Minnesota Wild in a game that has large playoff implications. Anaheim sits one point back of the Wild and the Flames in the last wild card spot and the last Pacific division spot, respectively. With a win over the Wild, in any fashion, the Ducks would move into the third Pacific division spot. The Wild, with a win, would move into a tie with the Stars (1st wild card) for points and further help them hold their wild card spot.

This is the second of three times these two teams will play this season. The last game was in early December where the Wild claimed a 3-2 overtime victory in Anaheim. Now with both teams uncomfortable in the standings and vying for a playoff spot, this matchup is sure to be intense. Dare I say...wild!

Anaheim has been playing relatively well as of late, without the scoreboard showing it. They have been leading most teams they’ve played in offensive pressure and scoring chances. They just have been a bit unlucky with the final score, partially due to the defensive liability of Kevin Bieksa and Francois Beauchemin. The Ducks management took a step towards fixing it (finally) by calling up Marcus Pettersson and playing him in favor of Bieksa against the Blackhawks. It may not have been the key difference-maker, but the Ducks won against the Blackhawks nonetheless. One can hope that Pettersson performs well and claims a permanent roster spot, leading to the scratching of Bieksa and Beauchemin every other game.

The Wild have gone 6-3-1 in their last 8 games. Most recently they were beaten 5-2 by the Washington Capitals. They’ll look to bounce back as Bruce Boudreau faces his former team.

“The whole point is when you fall, you get right back on. That’s what we’re trying to do, but I’m sure Anaheim wants to start a little streak of their own” - Boudreau after the loss to Washington.

All Eyes On Me

With Pettersson getting the call up, many want to see how well he can adjust to the NHL, and hopefully see him earn more minutes. The only problem is it’s just impossible to not be captivated by what the Ducks 3rd line has been doing. Adam Henrique has 5 points in his last 5 games and 9 goals in his last 14 games. Ondrej Kase has 4 goals and 8 points in his last 6 games. His breakaway goals has made mockery of goalies and become stuff of legend. Even Nick Ritchie, the bane of my existence, who still needs to be traded away, has been contributing offensively with 6 points in his last 7 games. The line is just electric at generating chances right now and other teams can’t figure it out.

Keys To The Game

Get shots on net and capitalize scoring chances - The Wild are a defense-first team, which means the Ducks are going to get a lot of extended time in the offensive zone. They need to make sure they are putting shots on net often and get traffic in front to bang in rebounds.

Limit odd-man chances - I didn’t get to watch all of the Ducks-Hawks game, but the highlights showed a lot of Blackhawks odd-man rushes. Fortunately Gibson played a great game, but the Ducks can do him the favor of limiting those chances as the Wild have some strong scorers in Staal, Zucker and Granlund.

Third-line dominance - Rico and his Roughnecks (Kase and Ritchie) - shoutout to any Starship Trooper fans - have been the deadliest line for the Ducks as of late. With them rolling, the Ducks have 3 solid scoring lines and teams should be concerned.