After opening the season on a positive note, the Anaheim Ducks look to end their lengthy winless stretch against the Minnesota Wild.
The Ducks will aim to avoid an eighth straight defeat to the visiting Wild on Friday night.
Anaheim burst out of the gate with Wednesday’s 4-1 home victory over Winnipeg. Mason McTavish, the 18-year-old third overall pick in this year’s NHL draft, had a goal and an assist and John Gibson stopped 33 shots for the Ducks, who are looking to open 2-0-0 for the third time in four seasons.
The Ducks jumped out to a 2-0 lead, then kept calm when the Jets cut that deficit in half. Anaheim regrouped, recorded two power-play goals and killed all five Winnipeg attempts with the man-advantage to open the season in style after posting just 43 points in 56 games in 2020-21.
“Last year, we seemed to struggle with, if we’re up one, getting that next one and the next one to put the game away,” forward Adam Henrique, who also scored Wednesday, told the Ducks’ official website.
“That’s something we need to grow into and be able to do.”
What Anaheim also needs to do is right the ship against Minnesota. The Ducks posted a 1-0 home win over Minnesota in the teams’ first meeting last season, then were outscored 24-13 while going 0-5-2 against the Wild the rest of the way. Each of the last four meetings were decided by one goal, with the two most recent ending in overtime.
Gibson went 1-2-1 with a 3.01 goals-against average versus Minnesota last season. Anaheim’s Max Comtois failed to record a point Wednesday, but he will look to extend his goal-scoring streak against the Wild to four games.
Minnesota opens the 2021-22 campaign coming off their second straight playoff berth, and eighth in the last nine seasons. Though longtime Wild stalwarts Ryan Suter and Zach Parise have departed, Minnesota returns reigning Calder Trophy winner Kirill Kaprizov, who topped all 2020-21 rookies with 27 goals and 51 points.
In addition, Wild forward Jordan Greenway looks to build on a strong performance from last season, when he recorded career highs of 26 assists and 32 points. There’s also plenty of hype surrounding center Marco Rossi, the ninth overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, who is expected to make his league debut sooner rather than later.
Meanwhile, former Arizona Coyote Alex Goligoski and fellow veteran Dmitry Kulikov were brought in to lead a defensive corps that moves on without Suter in the mix.
In the Wild net, Cam Talbot and Kaapo Kahkonen are back after they combined for 35 wins with a 2.74 goals-against average and each recorded two shutouts last season.
“I’m confident in these guys,” Wild general manager Bill Guerin told the club’s official website. “I like our group. Like I’ve said all along, I’m confident in them. They’re all super excited to get the season going, and I like this group a lot.”
Minnesota opens on the West Coast for a second straight season after going 3-1-0 against Los Angeles and Anaheim in its first four games of 2021-22.
–Field Level Media