Wild-Ducks Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated December 04, 2011
Bruce Boudreau's tenure with the Anaheim Ducks started with a blown lead and a loss, but the coach feels there's reason for optimism. The Minnesota Wild are giving rookie coach Mike Yeo plenty of reasons to be joyous. Boudreau looks to get his first victory with the Ducks on Sunday when Anaheim attempts to avenge a recent home loss to Yeo's Wild. The Ducks (7-13-5) are last in the Pacific Division, and only two points clear of Columbus for the fewest points in the NHL. For one game, a new coach hasn't helped those woes. Anaheim squandered a three-goal, second-period lead and fell 4-3 in overtime to Philadelphia on Friday, two days after Boudreau replaced Randy Carlyle behind the bench. Despite the team losing for the eighth time in nine games, Boudreau saw promise in the underachieving Ducks. "There's a lot of positives," said Boudreau, who had been fired by Washington on Monday. "There's more skill up front than I thought there was. The energy and the enthusiasm on the bench was really good. Everybody left everything they had on the ice. It wasn't a question of not giving it their all, but in the end, you can't overcome making dumb mistakes." Anaheim has dropped three of four to the Wild (16-7-3), including two at Honda Center after surrendering three first-period goals in a 3-2 defeat there Nov. 13. While Boudreau is trying to guide the Ducks out of a tailspin, Yeo has Minnesota surprisingly atop the Western Conference heading into a five-game road trip. The Wild have won 13 of 17 since a 3-2 loss to the Ducks at home Oct. 27, and that stretch includes winning five of seven as the visitor. Minnesota's impressive surge continued with Friday's 4-2 win over New Jersey. The Wild were outshot 31-16, but found the net on three of their first four shots to chase Martin Brodeur. "We had a great start, something we haven't had a lot of lately. The place was rocking," Yeo said. "I do think that when you score three goals like that - bang, bang, bang - it is a little tough to keep your focus and your same mentality." Minnesota may be without Niklas Backstrom, who exited Friday's win following the opening period due to a lower-body injury after allowing two goals on nine shots. Yeo said the injury was "nothing extremely serious." The Wild, however, recalled goaltender Matt Hackett from Houston of the AHL on Saturday. That could mean another appearance for Josh Harding, who stopped all 22 shots in two periods of relief Friday. "You've got to be ready as a backup goalie when they give you a chance," Harding said. "Backy has put the bar pretty high and I've got to step in there and do the job." Yeo likely feels comfortable with Harding, who has a 1.96 goals-against average while going 6-2-1 in 11 games - nine starts. He's lost his last three meetings with Anaheim, though, compiling a 3.74 GAA. Backstrom has won six of his last seven starts behind a 2.16 GAA. He started that stretch with a 32-save effort in Anaheim last month, beating the Ducks for the seventh time in the last 10 meetings. Corey Perry, Anaheim's leader with 11 goals, has five goals and four assists in his last six games against the Wild, with five points coming on the power play. The right wing only managed one shot with no points against the Flyers, snapping a seven-game point streak.
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