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Preview: Wild look to shake off losses against Ducks

It’s been a tough couple of weeks in Minnesota, maybe this matchup will make them feel better.

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NHL: JAN 14 Ducks at Wild

It is not fun right now for the Minnesota Wild. After a five-game break over the weekend, they came into California to face the Los Angeles Kings last night and got dragged around the ice to a 1-0 loss. Not the best feeling to lose your second consecutive game and get shutout. Now, the team is travelling to face the Anaheim Ducks in a matchup where they should have the advantage.

Wild at Kings

When: 9:00 p.m. CT
Where: Honda Center
TV: SN360, TNT, BSW
Radio: KFAN 100.3 FM

If you think the Wild’s season is going bad, just look at how the Ducks are performing. They are a team that added in the offseason, signing center Ryan Strome and defenseman John Klingberg to solidify the top of their lineup, but through 13 games find themselves with a 4-8-1 record and only the disaster shows called the San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues are below them in the Western Conference standings.

This might just end up being the perfect opportunity to get the Wild’s offensive juices flowing once again. Just like how the team used the first game against the Montreal Canadiens to recover after a tough start to the season — and then proceeded to win three of their next four games — tonight can be more of the same, because they need it.

The Wild’s stars are producing at an alright level right now — Kirill Kaprizov has 13 points, Mats Zuccarello has 12, Matt Boldy has 10, and Joel Eriksson Ek has nine — but beyond those key players, there is essentially zero scoring from depth. Brandon Duhaime still leads all players outside of the top-six forwards in scoring with three points in 10 games. He hasn’t even played for the last two games. Maybe it is just a problem with having Marcus Foligno, Ryan Hartman, and Duhaime out with injuries, but there should be at least some push from the Wild’s depth.

There are just heaps of problems for the Wild right now, but hopefully, playing against a bad team can shake off some rust and get them scoring in bunches again.

Projected Wild lineup

Kirill Kaprizov — Frederick Gaudreau — Mats Zuccarello
Jordan Greenway — Joel Eriksson Ek — Matt Boldy
Adam Beckman — Marco Rossi — Mason Shaw
Tyson Jost — Connor Dewar — Sam Steel

Jake Middleton — Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin — Matt Dumba
Jon Merrill — Calen Addison

Filip Gustavsson is likely to get this start on the road since Marc-Andre Fleury must be feeling dizzy after standing on his head for the entire game last night.

We are assuming that Adam Beckman gets to make his season debut tonight after getting called-up earlier this week. And with a shot like his, he certainly doesn’t deserve to be on the fourth line, so moving Connor Dewar back to the fourth and Beckman next to former Iowa teammates Marco Rossi and Mason Shaw, might be what head coach Dean Evason does with his lineups. We’re projecting.

Other than that, the lineup will probably stay the same in hopes to create more chemistry and bond between the combinations. Jordan Greenway had a rough time returning from injury last night, but moving him around probably isn’t the best move just because of one game.

Projected Ducks lineup

Adam Henrique — Trevor Zegras — Frank Vatrano
Maxime Comtois — Ryan Strome — Troy Terry
Mason McTavish — Isac Lundestrom — Jakob Silfverberg
Max Jones — Glenn Gawdin — Brett Leason

Dmitry Kulikov — John Klingberg
Simon Benoit — Cam Fowler
Nathan Beaulieu — Kevin Shattenkirk

John Gibson is your projected starter for the Ducks.

There is a lot of flash on this Anaheim team — led by Trevor Zegras, supported by Troy Terry and John Klingberg — but also a lot of young toughness in the form of Maxime Comtois, Mason McTavish, and Max Jones. It is an interesting team that has players that haven’t even come close to their peaks yet, but overall, it is still a team missing some support from its blue line.

Considering that our very own Wild just threw away Dmitry Kulikov and traded him to the Ducks for literally nothing this summer, seeing him on the top pairing just says everything you need to know about what’s going on with defensemen in Anaheim. Not the best!

We know all of Kulikov’s tricks, so maybe the Wild’s forwards will have an easier time than I imagine.

Puck drop is at 9:00 p.m. Get your iced coffee ready.

Burning Questions

Goals, anyone?

The Wild are currently on a 120-minute, two-game stretch where they have been shutout. If we want to be dramatic, the Wild haven’t scored a goal in over a week. It might be a crazy statement to make, but it’s true. The last time the Wild scored a goal was against the Montreal Canadiens last Tuesday. So now we’re just wondering if they will ever happen again. Can they score a goal tonight?

Can they take advantage of a poor defense?

Maybe this is the exact same question, but it’s one thing to score a couple chippy goals while being out-shot, and it’s another to completely dominate in every asset of the game. The Ducks are a bad defensive team. They have given up the second-most shot attempts and most shots on goal against at 5-on-5 in the league. There’s no way around it, but this Ducks team isn’t built to stifle the competition, they’re just hoping that the blueliners are good enough to pass it to their better forwards.

Maybe we get back on track by destroying Anaheim.

How does Adam Beckman look?

He didn’t get in the game last night but with this back-to-back and Joseph Cramarossa being entirely invisible out there, a shooter like Beckman can be added. He gets an easier matchup than against the Kings and he might be able to sneak his way into the top-nine forward group. Let’s see how it pans out.