Preview: Wild vs. Ducks

The Minnesota Wild host the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday at Xcel Energy Center, as head coach Bruce Boudreau's new squad takes on his former team.
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sport

SAINT PAUL, Minn. — After five consecutive road games, the Anaheim Ducks aren’t yet home, but they are at least heading west, closing out the six-game trip on Tuesday by facing their former coach, Bruce Boudreau, and the Minnesota Wild.

The shortest month of the year has already been a long grind for the Ducks, who are 1-3-1 on the road trip and are coming off a tough loss to the league’s best team, the Washington Capitals. San Jose trailed by three goals twice, rallied to tie the game, then gave up a pair of goals in the final three minutes to lose 6-4.

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“We gave them so many gifts in the first period, it was like we were standing around,” Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. “We were watching the game and they were playing the game for that period. Then we climbed back into it. The difference ended up being the special teams at the end. If you look at it, they scored a shorthanded goal and a power-play goal. That’s the difference in the hockey game.”

The Ducks go directly from the best in the East to the best in the West, facing a still-hot Wild team that has collected at least a point in 29 of 33 games since the start of December and is solidly in control atop the Central Division and Western Conference standings. Boudreau, who won four Pacific Division titles in four-plus seasons behind the Ducks bench, is already 2-0-0 versus his former team this season, but he is not standing pat.

With key defensemen Matt Dumba and Jonas Brodin out of the lineup, the Wild are still making roster moves. On Monday, they recalled Alex Tuch and Zack Mitchell from their Iowa AHL team and put forward Tyler Graovac on waivers for purposes of sending him down.

Minnesota almost lost another defenseman in Sunday’s home win over the Detroit Red Wings when Jared Spurgeon took a stick to the face from Gustav Nyquist, who is likely to be suspended by the NHL. Spurgeon got stitches and returned to the game.

“As soon as I heard he was just getting stitched up it made me feel a lot better because two inches closer and the guy could’ve speared his eye out I think,” Boudreau said.

Perhaps the biggest thing to come out of the Detroit win for a Wild were the two goals scored by Zach Parise. The franchise left winger has struggled lately, and felt like he got his groove back a bit versus Detroit.

“It’s always nice when you feel like you’re doing the right things to get rewarded,” Parise said. “It’s funny, even in games where you feel like you don’t play as well, you get a couple (goals) and in games you play great, you don’t get anything. That’s the way it goes.”

Goaltending will certainly be in focus for the Ducks as they face a Wild team that has scored five or more goals in four of its past eight games.