Wild aim to extend Ducks' struggles

(SportsNetwork.com) - The Minnesota Wild hope to take advantage of a struggling Anaheim Ducks team when they host the Pacific Division leaders Friday night at Xcel Energy Center.

The Wild have been one of the NHL's best teams since the middle of January and they enter Friday with six wins over their last seven games. The lengthy surge has Minnesota sitting in the first wild card spot in the Western Conference, two points ahead of idle Los Angeles.

Anaheim, meanwhile, is tied with several teams at the top of the NHL standings with 91 points, but the club is stuck in its longest stretch of consecutive regulation losses this season. The Ducks are 0-3-0 on the heels of a four-game winning streak and they have allowed five goals or more in two of those three setbacks.

The Ducks, who own an 11-point lead over Vancouver for the Pacific lead, dropped a 5-2 home decision last Friday against Pittsburgh before falling 2-1 to the Canucks on Monday in the opener of a three-game road trip. Anaheim then jumped out to a 2-0 lead in Wednesday's game at Calgary before falling apart in a 6-3 loss.

Although his team is well ahead of the pack in the division, head coach Bruce Boudreau doesn't believe his team can feel comfortable about its playoff status.

"I think they're all critical [games] right now," Boudreau said. "Everybody thinks that, 'Oh yeah, we're in first place' and that, but I mean it's within 10 points of the wild card and we've played more games than everybody else, so we've got to get our act in gear right now."

Ryan Getzlaf picked up a pair of goals on Wednesday and Hampus Lindholm posted the other score for the Ducks. John Gibson surrendered all six goals on just 23 shots in defeat.

Getzlaf scored just 22 seconds into the game and hit the net again at the 2:51 mark to set a new club record for the fastest two goals by one player from the start of a game, but Calgary evened the score before the end of the opening period. The Flames claimed the lead for good at 7:28 of the second period.

Anaheim fell to 20-10-4 as the visiting team and will begin a three-game homestand in Sunday's test against Nashville.

The Wild rebounded from a loss in their last trip to the ice. Minnesota had a five-game win streak snapped Sunday against Colorado in the opener of a three- game homestand, but bounced back with a 6-2 rout of New Jersey on Tuesday.

Thomas Vanek scored twice to lead Minnesota to the lopsided win. Chris Stewart and Jared Spurgeon each posted a goal and an assist while Sean Bergenheim and Jason Pominville also scored for the Wild.

Former New Jersey forward Zach Parise had two assists against his old team.

Devan Dubnyk gave up two goals on 32 shots in his 25th consecutive start in net. He is 19-4-1 with a 1.67 goals against average since coming over from Arizona in a January trade.

"This whole stretch there's been games where we've had four lines generating," said Minnesota head coach Mike Yeo. "We got up tonight and forced them to chase a little more and when you can do that it leads to more chances."

The Wild are 19-9-5 as the host this season, but they have lost their last five home tests against Anaheim. The Ducks have won eight of nine overall in this series.