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Preview: Wild begin four-game west coast road trip against Ducks

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After a quick stop in St. Paul, the Wild are back on the road hoping they can strike gold in California.

Anaheim Ducks v Minnesota Wild

The Minnesota Wild have been on the road a lot this season, playing nine of their first 14 games on the road. They will eventually play more games at home, but not yet. For now, they kick off a four-game road trip in Anaheim tonight.

Minnesota is a disappointing 1-8-0 on the road this season, a record they will try to improve on this road trip.

The Wild are coming off a frustrating game against the St. Louis Blues. The team actually played fairly well for the first half of the game and took a 3-2 lead into the third period. But a highly questionable call to overturn a goal by Mikko Koivu (that would have made it 4-2 late in the second period) killed all momentum the Wild had going, and the offense never started back up. The Blues, rejuvenated by the no-goal call, starting firing on all cylinders. They tied the game in third period to force overtime, where Ryan O’Reilly would eventually score the game-winner. As frustrating as that game was Saturday night, the Wild need to move on and focus on tonight’s matchup against the Ducks.

The Ducks are off to a good start this season, posting a record of 9-6-1 through their first 16 games. Starting goaltender John Gibson has posted solid numbers thus far (more on that below), and the Ducks’ offense is being led this season by winger Jakob Silfverberg, who has 12 points through 16 games. It is a small sample size, but he is on pace for over 60 points, which would blow past his previous career high of 49. They have also seen plenty of production from Ryan Getzlaf (seven goals) and Adam Henrique (eight). Like the Wild, the Ducks are coming off an overtime loss, falling to the Blackhawks during extra time on Sunday.

Anaheim took the season series last year, winning in two of their three meetings with the Wild. Interestingly — and potentially a good sign for the Wild tonight — the road team won all three games last season. These teams will meet two more times after tonight’s game — December 10 in St. Paul and again in Anaheim on March 8.

Burning Questions

1) Will Kevin Fiala get going?

Former GM Paul Fenton thought Fiala had plenty of potential when he traded for the former eleventh overall pick last season. Fiala’s tenure with the Wild has left a lot to be desired, though. After going eight games without a goal, he picked up his first of the season Saturday night against St. Louis. The Wild need him to continue scoring now that he has finally notched his first goal. After also going his first eight games of the season without a goal, Eric Staal now has four goals and eight points in his last six. Hopefully Fiala can enjoy a similar surge in scoring.

2) Can the Wild start periods strong?

Saturday night against St. Louis, the Wild got off to strong starts in both the first and second period. They scored within the first minutes of each period. The third period, however, they got off to a slow start, and it never picked up. There have been plenty of times this season where they give up a goal early in the period (especially on a power play), and their opponent keeps the momentum for the entire period. The Wild will need to play the entire 60 minutes tonight, and that starts by playing well for the first few minutes of each period.

3) Will John Gibson continue to dominate the Wild?

In nine career games against the Wild, John Gibson has a career record of 5-2-1 (he did not pick up the decision in one of the nine games), a .948 save percentage and a goals against of 1.80. He also has two career shutouts against Minnesota. That is the best save percentage that he has against any NHL team and the second best goals against. Through 12 games this season, Gibson has a 6-6-0 record, but a strong 2.50 goals against and a .926 save percentage.

It’ll be a late one tonight, so get out your coffee and hope the game will be one worth staying up for.