The Minnesota Wild look to get out of the swirling downward pool against a familiar opponent that has been easy to overcome in the first half of this season.
Against the Anaheim Ducks, the Wild boast a record of 3-1 and has never allowed more than two goals against in each of the four matchups. The only loss was a frustrating 1-0 shutout when Nicolas Deslauriers of all players scored the only goal.
But now with some of their young players up and contributing — both Trevor Zegras and Jamie Drysdale scored their first NHL goals the other night against the Arizona Coyotes — could we be in for a surprise? Maybe a change of a Ducks offense that can now lean on some younger talent while their older veterans wash away to hairless dust?
Especially without defensive dynamo Marcus Foligno in the lineup, Minnesota isn’t the stronghold that we’ve come to known in the first half; that much was evident against a strong opponent like the Avalanche.
With the early practice lines reported, it appears that Marcus Johansson will be returning and take Foligno’s place next to the established pair of Jordan Greenway and Joel Eriksson Ek. A line that boasts some of the best underlying play-driving numbers in the entire NHL, now has Johansson to add some hopeful offensive punch. MoJo won’t be the same overall contributing winger like Foligno, but he can survive with such a responsible pair of forwards next to him.
Cam Talbot will be getting the starting position and I’m not sure if it’s due to Kaapo Kahkonen looking weak against Colorado, or just formal rotation between the starter and backup. Through 13 starts, Talbot has a secure .915 save percentage and a 2.66 goals against average, while also earning nine quality starts. His addition to this club has been exactly as advertised and is simply a goaltender you can rely on to just simply be above-average.
Can the Wild start this one on the right foot?
In the last five games, the Wild have scored the first goal of the game only twice, and both of those were shutout wins against the Coyotes. If Minnesota can start this one with a goal in the first 15 or so minutes, it should keep the team from sinking into the depressive hole that Colorado forced them into.
This is a game that can shed away any doubt of making some noise in the playoffs, it was just a horrible weekend for the Wild and kicking Anaheim’s ass can go a long way.
Can Kevin Fiala earn some points?
Someone that has found some success lately but has overall seen his production dip is Kevin Fiala. If he’s able to take advantage of a bottom-barrel team like the Ducks and get some points on the board, it could really help him get that scoring touch back for more formidable opponents.
Will the powerplay get some jump?
Anaheim currently own the 21st-ranked penalty kill in the league, and the Wild should be taking full advantage of that; easily the worst man-advantage prevention in the division. The only issue is that the Ducks do not take a lot of penalties—only averaging 5:01 TOI shorthanded, compared to the Wild’s 5:57 TOI shorthanded.
If there are some key opportunities, Minnesota should be salivating with Kaprizov on the hunt.
Puck drop is at 6:30 p.m. (weird).