Wild chasing playoff positioning in meeting with Ducks

NHL

The Minnesota Wild will try to continue their dominance against the Anaheim Ducks this season when they meet on Friday night in Saint Paul, Minn.

The Wild (33-14-5, 71 points) have won five in a row against the Ducks after losing their first meeting 1-0 back in January. Minnesota hasn’t allowed more than two goals in any of its six games against Anaheim this season.

Despite the recent success, the Wild can’t afford to let up in either of the back-to-back games against the Ducks this weekend.

Minnesota is one point behind the Colorado Avalanche for second place in the West Division. The Avalanche have one game in hand on the Wild.

Kirill Kaprizov and Kevin Fiala continue to get the most attention on the Wild, and deservedly so, but coach Dean Evason knows better than anyone that the skillful forwards are just two pieces of the puzzle.

“Our group is a team, and we’ve had people step up all over the place,” Evason said. “Sure, Krills had a helluva year, no question, and Kevin scores goals, but there are so many other things that everybody does on our hockey club that allows us to have success.”

The Ducks (17-30-7, 41 points) should arrive in St. Paul on a high note after beating the St. Louis Blues 3-2 in a shootout on Wednesday night.

Anaheim coach Dallas Eakins would like to see his team close out the season with two wins against Minnesota. He also hopes to see the type of effort he witnessed against the Blues on Wednesday.

“The most encouraging thing for me is how hard these players are playing for each other,” Eakins said. “That’s always what has to happen first, and it’s the most important thing. It would be real easy just to kind of walk through these games, and I think it’s more human nature to do that, but our guys have got their heads down and they’re battling hard for each other, which is fun to watch and it’s encouraging.”

Anaheim wasn’t expected to make the playoffs heading into this season, but long-term and nagging injuries to players like Hampus Lindholm, Josh Manson, Jakob Silfverberg and Sonny Milano have made the season even more difficult.

“It’s not a thing where the players are just consciously going, ‘Well, I’m not going to compete,’ ” Eakins said. “I think your ability to compete also has a lot to do with who’s in your lineup. With the guys that we have out right now, especially over the last number of weeks here, I’ve been very, very impressed by our ability to compete against teams that are just much deeper than us right now.”

Evason has also been impressed with the togetherness of his team.

When Kaprizov was checked hard into the boards by Nicolas Hague of the Vegas Golden Knights on Wednesday night in a 3-2 overtime loss, Marcus Foligno of the Wild immediately came to his defense and dropped the gloves with Hague.

“There was a race to get to their guy that hit (Kaprizov),” Evason said. “There’s no question that we’re a team. We stick together.”

–Field Level Media

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