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Preview: Wild continue California swing, take on Anaheim in Sunday contest

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The California road trip continues.

Anaheim Ducks v Minnesota Wild Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images

Only a day removed from a disappointing performance against a streaking Los Angeles Kings squad, the Wild will now shift their attention to the Honda Center and the Anaheim Ducks.

The quick turnaround may be the best thing for Minnesota, as it prevents the loss from staying on the players’ minds for an extended period of time.

On the surface, we have seen improved hockey from the Wild recently, as they have been victorious in seven out of their last 10 games, and suddenly have a 66.6 percent chance of making the postseason, according to MoneyPuck.

But just because Minnesota’s playoff chances have increased recently, the Wild do not get a free pass to now begin a losing slide. Anaheim currently sits 27th in the NHL with 64 points and is out of the running for postseason competition, which means that the Wild, on paper, should have their way in the contest. MoneyPuck gives the Wild nearly a 53.9 percent chance of winning the game.

The Wild have another huge chance to secure vital points with only 14 contests remaining in the regular season, and beating a weak Anaheim team shouldn’t (!) be much of an issue.

These two teams have already met twice this season, and the series is tied at one win apiece. Minnesota won the first meeting on November 5 by a score of 4-2. It was a comeback effort, as Anaheim took the early 2-0 lead, but the good guys struck back with four unanswered goals when Kevin Fiala, Mats Zuccarello, Eric Staal and Zach Parise each found the back of the net.

However, the Ducks returned the favor with a 3-2 shootout victory of their own on December 10.

Since the last time these two teams met, Kevin Fiala has upped his game significantly, though he was held off the scoresheet for the first time since February 23 in Saturday’s tilt with the Kings.

Sunday’s matchup will also be a good opportunity for the Wild defense to get the sour taste of a poor performance out of their mouths, as the Ducks sit third to last (29th) in goals per game at 2.51.

But, on the other hand, Los Angeles sit 30th in the same stat, scoring 2.45 a night, and they found the back of the net seven times against the Wild.

Which team will show up? Will it be the one that that’s been desperately fighting for a playoff spot, or the one that drops yet another winnable contest?

Burning Questions

Can the Wild score in the first period?

The Wild didn’t get off to a great start in Los Angeles. Will Minnesota get yesterday’s performance out of their minds and strike early against the Ducks?

Can Minnesota sacrifice two goals or less in Sunday’s matchup?

The Wild have to get back on their horse, and quickly. Can the team assert themselves and make a statement on road ice?

Can Kevin Fiala begin a new point streak?

The spectacular Swede had his point streak of six games broken on Saturday. Can he reignite that flame and begin another?