PREVIEW: Trying to avoid three-game skid, Minnesota Wild take on Anaheim Ducks

Feb 22, 2021; San Jose, California, USA; Minnesota Wild right wing Mats Zuccarello (36) celebrates with teammates during the first period against the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center at San Jose. Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Wild will try to avoid losing three games in a row for the first time this season when they host the Anaheim Ducks on Monday in Saint Paul, Minn.

The Wild dropped a two-game set at the Colorado Avalanche by a combined score of 11-1 on Thursday and Saturday.

“You’ve got to find a way to come back, and big games (are) ahead of us,” Minnesota forward Mats Zuccarello said. “This cannot be our standard.”

Minnesota had won five in a row before heading to Denver, including three straight against Arizona, a team that just split two games with the Ducks in Anaheim.

Related: NHL power rankings – Hurricanes reign No. 1 as playoffs near

“It wasn’t ideal the last couple of games for us, but we feel we’re better than what we showed the last two,” Wild forward Zach Parise said. “You have to do it on a nightly basis and do it against the best teams.”

The Ducks have not won in regulation in their past 17 games. They are 3-11-3 in that span with all three wins coming in overtime.

“Sometimes, I think, the game doesn’t have answers for you,” Anaheim coach Dallas Eakins said. “It’s a cruel league if you’re not on your game right away, and you fall down that far in a game.”

The Ducks were outscored 5-0 in the first period against Arizona and have allowed the first goal in 16 games this season, coming back to win just two.

The Wild are 15-2-0 when scoring first this season, the third third-best winning percentage in that situation in the NHL.

“We have to start games better,” Eakins said.

One area for the Wild that continues to be a major weakness is their power play.

Minnesota went 0-for-4 with the man-advantage on Saturday to drop their power-play efficiency to 8.5 percent, last in the league.

“It’s not really clicking this year,” Zuccarello said.

The Ducks haven’t been much better, finding the net on just 12 percent of their power plays this season.

To make matters more challenging, the Ducks have been without their No. 1 goalie, John Gibson, for the past three games because of a lower-body injury, which landed him on injured reserve on Thursday.

The Ducks have been forced to move 40-year-old Ryan Miller into the No. 1 spot, with Anthony Stolarz serving as back up.

Stolarz made his first start of the season on Saturday and was pulled after allowing two goals on 14 shots. Miller didn’t perform any better, giving up three goals on 14 shots.

Related: NHL trade rumors – Updates on latest buzz, speculation before 2021 deadline

Because Stolarz has spent most of the season on the taxi squad, he had played in only three games with San Diego of the American Hockey League.

“You can’t mimic a game in practice,” Eakins said. “For the taxi squad, there’s usually only a couple of us on the ice, so it’s difficult to do full-on rushes, 3-on-2s, 2-on-1s, those game-like scenarios where you have four or five people in front of you.”

Minnesota could be without one of its top defensemen against the Ducks.

Matt Dumba was scratched from Saturday’s game with a lower-body injury that occurred in the 5-1 loss to Colorado on Thursday.

Dumba is second in scoring among Wild defensemen with 11 points (five goals, six assists)

–Field Level Media