Ducks 4, Wild 2

Bobby Ryan substantially improved his chances of making the U.S.

Olympic team with a solid offensive performance against the

Minnesota Wild. More importantly, he helped the Anaheim Ducks grab

a critical two points in their bid to get back into playoff

contention.

Ryan scored two goals and set up another by red-hot rookie Dan

Sexton, leading the Ducks to a 4-2 victory on Tuesday night and

helping put them within eight points of the eighth and final

Western Conference seed.

Ryan has 19 goals, tying Tampa Bay’s Ryan Malone for the most

goals this season by American-born players. The U.S. Olympic roster

will be announced on Friday.

“To be honest, I thought about it more at the beginning of the

year,” said Ryan, who hails from Cherry Hill, N.J. “I’ve tried to

just let my play do the talking and try to get this team out of the

basement. So we’ll worry about that when it comes. I’ll be tuned

into the TV like everybody else waiting for the announcement, and I

hope to wear the colors in February.”

Teammate Ryan Whitney, a native of Boston, also has a good shot

of making the Olympic squad. He leads all American-born defensemen

with 22 points and had a plus-minus rating of plus-4.

“I think it has an effect on all of your players that are

potential Olympians,” coach Randy Carlyle said. “You can’t help

as a player to not think about it. And when your friends in your

support group and the media talk about it, you’re going to hear

about it.

“The one thing that we’ve asked is their contribution is to be

here, first and foremost,” Carlyle added. “And if they make a

positive one here, it enhances their opportunity to play there. So

we ask them to be professionals and we try to deal with it. But I

don’t it’s been an issue for our players.”

Jonas Hiller made 29 saves and Todd Marchant added a

short-handed empty-netter with 10 seconds remaining in his 300th

game with the Ducks. They played without center Ryan Getzlaf for

the first time this season after he cut his right leg with his own

skate during Saturday’s loss at San Jose. But he is expected to

return to the lineup sometime during the three-game road trip that

begins on Thursday at Dallas.

“We’ve been in desperation mode for 10-15 games,” Ryan said.

“We came out hard tonight and the guys were prepared. When a guy

like Getz goes down, it really impacts everybody around the room.

So some guys have to step up.”

Antti Miettinen and Kim Johnsson scored for the Wild, who

squandered a chance to set a team record with their 11th win this

month. At 10-5 in December, they have one more opportunity to do

it, on Thursday against at home against the Los Angeles Kings.

The Ducks led 2-1 at the end of a penalty-free first period in

which they outshot Minnesota 17-8 – their highest shot total in a

first period this season.

Ryan opened the scoring at 7:08, intercepting Derek Boogaard’s

attempted clearing pass in the neutral zone and carrying the puck

back into the Minnesota end before beating Josh Harding high to the

glove side with a 35-foot wrist shot from the slot.

“They were a desperate team coming in,” Minnesota forward Cal

Clutterbuck said. “They’re in a situation now where if they don’t

turn it around soon, things are going to start looking more and

more dull for them down the stretch.”

Miettinen tied it at 15:41 with his ninth goal after Mikko Koivu

got the puck away from defenseman Brett Festerling behind the

net.

But the Ducks regained the lead 35 seconds later when Sexton got

a cross-ice pass from Ryan and beat Harding high to the glove side

with a short wrist shot. Sexton has six goals and three assists in

his first 12 NHL games after getting promoted from Manitoba of the

AHL on Dec. 4.

The Ducks didn’t have a power play opportunity until late in the

second period, when Eric Belanger was sent off for slashing

Marchant and Kyle Brodziak got the gate 46 seconds later for

holding Corey Perry. Ryan made it 3-1 three seconds after the first

penalty expired, converting a cross-ice pass through the crease

from Saku Koivu for his 19th goal and 100th NHL point.

Johnsson, who has scored in three straight games for the first

time in his career, got Minnesota closer with his fifth of the

season during a power play. Matt Beleskey was off for high-sticking

Shane Hnidy when Johnsson beat Hiller to the glove side with a

one-timer from about 50 feet in the slot with 6:53 left.

But the Ducks killed off two more Minnesota power plays in the

final 3:09.

The game was held up for a few moments after Harding was struck

near the Adam’s apple by Perry’s wrist shot at 13:53 of the second.

But the goalie just got the wind knocked out of him and remained in

the game, finishing with 28 saves.

NOTES: Minnesota, one of the major hotbeds of collegiate hockey

in the United States, doesn’t have any American-born players on its

active roster. … Anaheim C Ryan Carter, who was born in St. Paul,

Minn., returned to the lineup after missing 22 games with a broken

foot. … Ducks enforcer George Parros was a healthy scratch on his

30th birthday.