Wild Vs. Ducks Preview


Finally, the return of the NHL regular season! After a painfully excruciating 5 days layoff, the Wild are back in action tonight on the west coast against the

Mighty Ducks of

Anaheim Ducks for their home opener in the Honda Center. I’m not sure what scheduling gods we angered, but Wild fans have suffered through an abnormally long stretch between games and are rewarded with a Friday night west coast game, then playing the dreaded Sunday matinée in Los Angeles two days later. Similarly punished are Ducks fans, who have had to wait this long just to see their team on home ice at all, which gives the Wild three home openers in a row to start the season, one for them, and two for defending division champions(maybe seeing two banners raised in a week will be motivating?) in Denver and Anaheim.

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Game Preview-

As you can see with the tale of the tape, the sample sizes from this young season don’t really tell us a whole lot, but rest assured, Wild fans, the Ducks are still very good. The Ducks have been on the road for a while now, and are itching to come back home and play in front of their home fans, as well. Though they squashed their goalie controversy for a little while by temporarily sending down goaltending prodigy John Gibson after a rough opening night, Frederick Andersen is a potential all star goalie in his own right, and the offense is still as good as ever after adding Ryan Kesler in the offseason. Another interesting offseason addition we’ll see tonight for the Ducks is former Wild D-man Clayton Stoner, after he left St. Paul for a 4 year/$13 Million dollar contract. One offseason addition you won’t see, however, is our old friend Dany Heatley, who also made the jump from Minnesota to SoCal, as he’s nursing a groin injury to start the season.

Line Changes-

The Wild will come into the game with a few tweaks to the lineup from the last game, as Mike Yeo wanted to get some guys in that missed the opening weekend festivities. So Justin Fontaine will be sliding into the rotating door wing spot alongside Koivu and Vanek, while Jason Zucker will move back to the fourth line with Carter and Cooke, and push Brodziak into a healthy scratch. On defense, Keith Ballard makes his season debut, paired up with rookie Matt Dumba, while rookie Christain Folin doesn’t suit up. Here’s a look at the lines for tonight.








Goaltending Matchup-

The Wild will once again call on Darcy Kuemper to start after the long layoff, and it’s presumed Niklas Backstrom will start in Los Angeles on Sunday. Kuemper is riding a 120 minute shutout streak, and I’m sure Yeo wants to give him the chance to extend that as long as he can. Kuemper is hot to start the season, and Yeo is riding that hot hand as long as he can, although anything short of another shutout will likely see Kuemper getting the day off on Sunday.

As previously mentioned, the Ducks will be going with Frederick Andersen tonight, as they’re given him the sole starting job for now while John Gibson soaks up some minutes in the AHL for a short time. Andersen has been great for the Ducks so far, going 3-0 with a .928 Save% and 1.95 goals allowed average to start the season.


There will be a few things to watch for tonight for Wild fans, the most obvious being their biggest challenge yet. The Ducks are a bona fide cup contender, and while the Avalanche are pretty good, keeping up that kind of dominance over the season is just impossible. So this is the toughest test yet for the Wild, and it will be interesting to see how they react, and perform. Also interesting is how Fontaine will fit in with Koivu and Vanek, as that second line has seen a different wing attached to it every game so far, in the hopes that something clicks, although after the feed from Vanek to Zucker last Saturday, I’m surprised a change was made. Finally, another test for Matt Dumba. Both Dumba and Folin will be under close watch for the early parts of the season, and this weekend when they’re likely split up for both games is no exception. Playing with Ballard tonight will give Dumba a veteran to lean on, but also someone he doesn’t have as much rapport with as Folin at this point.

Winning both games on the west coast swing they’re on against some very high quality teams will be tough, and should be a great litmus test to see where the Wild are at to start the season, finally out of the loop of playing Colorado. I think it’s very important for the Wild to try and keep the steam they started the season with going, although it will be hard to do after nearly a week off. I think it’s reasonable to expect the Wild to at least earn a split with these two games, as coming back to St. Paul .500 after such a dominating first two games would really take the wind out their sails in this young season. Regardless of the outcome, rejoice Wild fans, as the hockey embargo has finally ended, and we should be seeing the Wild at a regular rate from here until the All Star Break.