The Minnesota Wild hope a return home will help get them back in their first-round series with the Anaheim Ducks. The venue, though, may not matter if their special teams don’t improve.
The Wild look to avoid falling into a 3-0 hole Sunday night as their Western Conference quarterfinal series shifts to the Xcel Energy Center.
Although they are two losses away from elimination, the Wild know they didn’t play poorly in the first two games of this series in Anaheim, losing both by one goal.
The Wild have reason to believe their fortunes will change at home, where they lost only seven times in regulation during the regular season.
“It’s only two games and we go back home,” Wild defenseman Brent Burns told the team’s official Web site. “We’re looking forward to getting home and hearing our crowd jeer (the Ducks) a little bit.”
It’s not inconceivable to think Minnesota could be heading home with a 2-0 series lead if its special teams had performed better.
Anaheim scored two power-play goals and the eventual game-winner short-handed in a 3-2 victory in Game 2 on Friday. The Ducks are 2-for-7 on the power play in this series while the Wild are scoreless on 10 opportunities.
“They got two power plays and a shorty. That was the difference in the game,” Minnesota’s Brian Rolston said. “Obviously, we’ve got to get the power play going, and there is no better way to get it going than at home.”
Rolston can be confident because his team scored a franchise-record 49 power-play goals at home during the regular season. The Wild’s power play ranked second in the NHL at home during the regular season and 27th on the road.
“That’s what we hope,” Wild coach Jacques Lemaire said. “We’ve been doing it there all year.”
Minnesota has lost six straight playoff games to the Ducks, including a four-game sweep in the 2003 conference finals. Special teams also played a big role in that series.
Anaheim is 4-for-18 on the power play with three short-handed goals in six playoff games against Minnesota. The Wild, meanwhile, are 1-for-26 with the man advantage with no short-handed goals in their last six postseason contests—all versus the Ducks.
Being home gives Lemaire the final change, which should open more space for the Wild’s best offensive players. Marian Gaborik and Pavol Demitra each have a goal and an assist in this series but Rolston, who tied for the team lead with 64 points in the regular season, has been held off the scoresheet.
“We needed to take advantage on home ice and we did that,” Beauchemin said. “Now we’ve got to go back there and keep playing our game. Their fans are good, and that’s a great place to play. They’re a good defensive team, and we knew going in the games were going to be close.”
Bryzgalov spent most of this season sitting behind Jean-Sebastien Giguere, and that figured to continue in the playoffs. Giguere, though, missed the final three games of the regular season while tending to a medical problem with his newborn son and coach Randy Carlyle elected to start Bryzgalov in the first two games.
Bryzgalov is 8-4 with a 1.46 goals-against average and three shutouts in 13 career playoff appearances.
As well as Bryzgalov has played, Carlyle could start Giguere in this game.
The Ducks hope to have right wing Dustin Penner available Sunday. Penner, second on the team with 29 goals in the regular season, left Game 2 in the third period with a muscle strain.
Game 4 is Tuesday at Minnesota.