Wild Captain Mikko Koivu would like nothing more than to celebrate his 30th birthday with a win tonight.
“I still feel like a young buck,” Koivu said to the media after practice. Coincidentally, Koivu will celebrate the day of his birth with his older brother, Saku, and the Anaheim Ducks. Koivu talked to the media after practice about his special day, playing the Ducks and dinner with his brother.
The Wild and Ducks meet as two of the hottest teams in the Western Conference and both are in first place in their respective divisions. The Wild is 7-3-0 in its last 10 games, while winning four straight at Xcel Energy Center. Anaheim has won its last three games and has collected points in its last seven contests. The Ducks’ two blemishes during the stretch came in road shootout losses against Phoenix.
This will be the third game between Minnesota and Anaheim this season. The two previous games were in California, with the Ducks winning the pair. The Wild looks to avenge those losses tonight.
“I don’t feel we’ve shown these guys our best game yet,” Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said. “We should be anxious for this opportunity tonight.”
Defenseman Tom Gilbert will be back in the Wild lineup after missing Sunday’s game with an illness. Nate Prosser, who replaced Gilbert at the last minute, will be a healthy scratch as will Pierre-Marc Bouchard.
Niklas Backstom will get the nod in net against the Ducks. The netminder is 8-6-0 with a 2.48 goals against average, a .916 save percentage and one shutout in 14 career starts against Anaheim.
Today, the Wild reassigned forward Mikael Granlund to the Houston Aeros.
“Young kids have to play,” Yeo said about 21-year-old. “The lineup that we have right now they deserve to go out there again and give us another chance to go out there and play the way we have the last couple of games.
“As an organization, he’s too important to us to have him sitting here and not playing.”
In Houston, Granlund looks to play top-end minutes and will continue his development in the American Hockey League.
Puck drop is set for 7 p.m., and the game will be broadcast on FOX Sports North and KFAN 100.3. If you’re more into social media, follow the action on Twitter @mnwildLIVE.