ST. PAUL, Minn. — If it was a blow to the ego when the Anaheim Ducks lost at home to their former coach two weeks ago, they haven’t shown many ill effects.
Since Jan. 8 when Bruce Boudreau and his Minnesota Wild posted a 2-1 victory in Anaheim, the Ducks have gone 5-0-1 and come to Xcel Energy Center looking to avenge their most recent loss.
The Ducks are coming off an odd 2-1 win over the Colorado Avalanche in Anaheim, which featured an extended stoppage in the middle of the game due to a glass issue inside the Honda Center. The teams headed to the locker room, then played half the second period and all of the third with just a short break in between. The odd time management allowed the Ducks to rally from a 1-0 hole after 40 minutes to win.
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“Actually I think it helped us, because we weren’t playing very well in the second period,” said Ducks coach Randy Carlyle, who took over behind the Anaheim bench when the team fired Boudreau at the end of last season. “They were coming at us and it broke up the period and gave us an opportunity to kind of re-set ourselves.”
There’s a bit of a re-set happening in Minnesota as well. The Wild are a league-best 18-2-2 since Dec. 1, but Boudreau hasn’t liked the way his team has played lately, especially with the number of goals they’re allowing.
On Tuesday they blew two leads and lost 4-3 to the New Jersey Devils. Two nights later, Minnesota beat the lowly Arizona Coyotes only after giving up a 3-1 lead and eking out a 4-3 win.
Wild star left wing Zach Parise, who has battled injuries and inconsistency all season, has been sent to the third line by Boudreau in hopes of providing a spark. On Thursday, Boudreau liked what he saw of Parise in the new role.
“I thought he played hard and had a couple shots on goal but it’s baby steps,” Boudreau said of Parise after the Arizona game. “When you’re in a slump, it just doesn’t come overnight where you get out of it. You work at it and you work at it, you might not get rewarded (right away), but eventually you start to get rewarded and it works your way.”
There are changes happening on the Minnesota blue line as well, after Jonas Brodin suffered a broken finger in the New Jersey game and will be out a month.
The Wild recalled young defenseman Mike Reilly from Iowa of the American Hockey League and he is expected to play versus Anaheim. Reilly is the classic offensive defenseman, while Brodin is a defense-first stalwart, so it’s not a one-for-one trade-off, especially on a team concerned about goals allowed.
Saturday’s game will be a later start for a Wild home contest. It will be the final contest in Hockey Day Minnesota, an annual state-wide celebration of the game that features all-day television coverage of high school, college and NHL hockey.