Wednesday, April 4th, 7:00PM PST
TV: Prime Ticket, SN360
Radio: AM 830
The Enemy: Hockey Wilderness
The Anaheim Ducks stroll in for a Wednesday night tilt against Bruce Boudreau and the Minnesota Wild. But this is more than just a reunion with Anaheim’s former coach. If events fall the right way, the Ducks could clinch a well-earned playoff spot at the end of the night. Even with all the injuries to start the season, questionable game and roster decisions, and a red hot Western Conference, the Ducks still could pull this one off. They have a 98% chance of doing just that by season’s end, so I would happily bet a dollar on those odds. Will tonight be the night or will Anaheim make us wait another few nights to buy some playoff tickets?
The Ducks are coming off two thrilling overtime wins against teams in the thick of the playoff race—the Los Angeles Kings and the Colorado Avalanche. Both were of the comeback variety with a 2-1 OT win against the Kings and a 4-3 OT win against the Avalanche. The win against Colorado was huge for Anaheim’s playoff chances. The two-goal comeback showed that the Ducks have what it takes to play a 60-minute game against a fast, albeit one-line team, which is imperative heading into the postseason. Carlyle and company outshot their opponent 42-32 before winning their second consecutive overtime game. Positives.
Yet as an 82-game season goes, injuries are bound to happen. As is custom in Anaheim before the playoffs, one of our most important defenders will be on the shelf for some time. Cam Fowler looks to be out with a shoulder injury after a collision into the boards against the Avalanche. That was not the only loss of the game. John Gibson was also knocked out with the dreaded upper body injury. Luckily, this does not seem to be related to the other injuries that have plagued him all year. The best case scenario for Anaheim would be to clinch a postseason berth as soon possible, which would allow Gibson to rest for the remainder of the regular season. In the meantime, Ryan Miller is a more than capable backup if the Ducks need him for an extended period of time.
Anaheim will have their hands full against their visiting foe. The Minnesota Wild carry a 44-25-10 record with 98 points. This is another successful campaign by a Bruce Boudreau led team. The machine does not miss the playoffs no matter who he is coaching. Strangely enough for a team as strong as the Wild, they have a sub 500 away record by going 17-19-2. Combine that with the fact that Ryan Suter is now out for the season with a broken ankle (ouch town population you, bro), and the Ducks have a legitimate shot at picking up two points. Anaheim knows that all they need to do is play their home game to make things difficult for the road team. Play Jump Around a million times through the arena speakers. I hear that gets Minnesota natives rattled.
All Eyes on Me
The Ducks’ Defense
The Ducks’ defense will need to take on a new identity without Cam Fowler. Hampus Lindholm and Josh Manson are the bona fide leaders of the backend, and their minutes will most likely reflect that. Past the star pairing, everything else is up in the air. Carlyle will have his hands full putting up an NHL quality defense. Brandon Montour showed promise next to Cam Fowler but looks to be paired with veteran Francois Beauchemin tonight. They have been close to horrible in their time together so that might not be the best option. That leaves two of Marcus Pettersson, Andy Welinski, and Korbinian Holzer on the last pairing. It may be wise to split Lindholm and Manson apart until the Ducks secure that playoff spot. Then the Ducks can toy with potential playoff pairings.
If these pairings hold true, Ryan Miller is going to see a lot of rubber tonight.