Just three seasons later, both teams are attempting to rebound from what could be considered disappointing seasons and opening day losses.
The Ducks saw themselves booed by their hometown crowd in the first period of their tilt against the San Jose Sharks, while the Wild put up a valiant effort against a strong Columbus Blue Jackets team, only to come up short.
The lineup looks to be much the same for the Wild as it was against Columbus. While Benoit Pouliot has been given the green light, I think that Richards keeps Scott in the line up against a Ducks team that likes to throw their weight around.
As far as the Ducks are concerned, I’m trying to track down what their lineup might be, but have been unsuccessful as of yet. I’ll post an update as soon as I know, but I do know that Petteri Nokelainen is day-to-day with an abdominal injury and likely won’t go tonight.
For the Wild, Derek Boogaard is still out indefinitely with a concussion.
What to Watch For
There are a few big storylines coming into this one.
First, these two teams just flat out don’t like each other. It started in the playoffs three years back and has continued to grow from there. From pre-game skirmishes to mid-game scraps, one thing is for sure. When these two teams get together, it’s going to get physical and it’s going to get physical quick.
I’d list a fight card for this, but honestly it’s a crapshoot. This rivalry has seen the likes of Derek Boogaard and Todd Fedoruk square off, but at the same time has seen Nick Schultz and Ryan Getzlaf drop the mitts.
But, if I had to put money on it, I’d say John Scott and George Parros would be a good bet.
Next, watch for Pierre-Marc Bouchard to have a short, short leash. He got benched late in the game on Saturday and saw just four shifts in the final period. Head Coach Todd Richards said that he is looking for Bouchard to be more aggressive at the center position; something that Bouchard has not excelled at in his career.
Playing with veteran goal scorers Owen Nolan and Petr Sykora on his wings, Bouchard is in a perfect position for the breakout season that everyone has been looking for from him, but he needs to prove himself capable.
Finally, you’ve got to wonder how long it will take Richards to resume the experiment of getting Pouliot to actually play hockey. Richards put Pouliot between Havlat and Sykora during the preseason and it paid immediate dividends. The Wild had their fair share of offensive woes against Columbus, only filling the net once, and Richards will be under the gun to get the team producing more offense.
Keys to the Game
The physical play will be a big part of this game.
Both teams are capable of getting down and dirty and really grinding it out and both teams have some heavy hitters on them. This game is going to be won by the team that wins the physical battles.
This means that the Wild will need to not only match the Ducks’ physicality, but also remain disciplined. When the game gets physical, it is all too easy to start a parade to the penalty box. If the Wild can play physical, but remain disciplined, the parade could be towards the opposing penalty box.
Just like in Zombieland, one of the keys to winning in the NHL is to enjoy the little things.
The Wild need to do just this.
They need to win the battles that involve the “little things” that can lead to victory. Winning faceoffs, forechecking, and Richards’ personal favorite buzzword, competing. If the Wild can win the little battles, it will go a long way towards winning the game.