Good afternoon from the O.C., where the Wild wraps up its three-game trip today at 5 p.m. PT/7 p.m. CT at the Honda Center in Anaheim.
The Wild is 1-0-1 on the trip and faces what will surely be a desperate, surly Ducks team, a team many of us geniuses picked to win the Cup and a team that is winless in four games and has been shut out in three of them.
Yes, the Ducks, who employ Wild killers Ryan Kesler, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, have one goal this year … by defenseman Sami Vatanen.
They played much better against the Avs the other night, but Colorado, as the Wild learned opening night, fronts shots superbly and blocked an asinine amount of ‘em against the Ducks (40).
“Nobody anticipated them to have the record that they have,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said. “They’ve only scored, what is it, one goal so far this season. That’s obviously a pretty big shock. We come into another building where we know what we’re up again, but the focus has to be on ourselves. First road trip of the year, it’s only been three games, but it feels like we’ve been on the road for a week here already. Bottom line is we have a chance to make it a great road trip. This will be a tough game, but we should welcome that challenge.”
The Wild has lost four of its past five visits to Anaheim and nine of its past 10 (1-8-1) overall against the Ducks. Remember, the Wild hosts Anaheim six days from now (the Ducks have won six straight one-goal games in Minnesota).
Kesler ranks second all-time against the Wild with 24 goals and third with eight power-play goals. Perry and Getzlaf each have 32 points in 35 games against the Wild
No lineup changes other than Devan Dubnyk returns to the net. Niklas Backstrom will be scratched for a fifth game in a row and Nate Prosser scratched for the fourth time in five games.
Not much else up. Yeo wants a more energetic effort tonight against the Ducks than he saw against the Kings. That’s why the Wild scrapped practice yesterday and oddly had a morning skate before a 5 p.m. game.
Yeo continues to be thrilled with the play of the vets. Mikko Koivu was the one guy going all game in L.A. and was rewarded with a power-play, tying goal. He loves the play of Ryan Suter right now, as well.
He wants more from the fourth line (they did draw a couple penalties in Arizona on Thursday) and especially, Erik Haula, who hasn’t been a threat offensively, isn’t winning puck battles and hasn’t been dangerous with his speed.
He has also been on for all four power-play goals against this season as opposed to seven all of last year.
Yeo said, “I didn’t love the goal against that we gave up last game, but that was not only on him. That was kind of a collective effort.”
Also, Yeo wants better changes in 3-on-3 overtime. He didn’t like how Jared Spurgeon was hung out to dry in OT the other night. The Wild had the puck for several seconds before the Wild decided to change from its defensive zone. That caused Spurgeon to be alone with the puck and he finally made the smart decision to pass to Darcy Kuemper. He also wasn’t in love with Matt Dumba’s change before Anze Kopitar’s winning goal.
That’s it for me. Enjoy the game tonight and talk to you after and on Twitter throughout at www.twitter.com/russostrib.