The Anaheim Ducks hope to close their regular season on a high note and send goalie Ryan Miller into retirement with another win as well.
Miller is scheduled to start against the host Minnesota Wild on Saturday night, the season finale for the Ducks and the last game of Miller’s 18-year NHL career.
Miller enters with 391 victories, the most-ever in the NHL among U.S.-born goalies.
Ideally, the Ducks would be preparing to give Miller one more shot at his first Stanley Cup title, but Anaheim is guaranteed to finish last in the West Division and miss the playoffs for a third straight season.
Despite their position in the standings, Ducks coach Dallas Eakins seems as pleased with the team as he has been all season.
The Ducks (17-30-8, 42 points) have earned points in three of their past four games (2-1-1), showing Eakins their resiliency after experiencing some difficult stretches this season.
In the 4-3 overtime loss to the Wild on Friday night, Minnesota went on a power play with the score tied and two minutes left in regulation, but the Ducks didn’t bend and killed the penalty to force overtime.
“I think our minds have been calloused by all the difficult circumstances and the season that we’ve had,” Eakins said. “Once you start coming out of it, what you deemed as hard before, doesn’t seem that hard anymore. I just think we’re a much stronger, mentally tougher team right now because of all the adversity we’ve gone through.”
The Wild (34-14-5, 73 points) are locked into one of the top three spots in the West Division, but the order is still to be determined. Minnesota will conclude its regular season at St. Louis on Wednesday and Thursday.
As pleased as Eakins was with his team’s performance in the loss on Friday, Minnesota coach Dean Evason was disappointed with the Wild’s style of play that drifted from what he prefers.
“We’ve talked a lot about grit before the skill, and we tried to skill before we played the game properly and gritty,” he said. “We trust that the group will do the right things to get prepared (for Saturday’s game), and then the right things when the puck is dropped.”
Evason plans to start Cam Talbot in goal after Kaapo Kahkonen made 22 saves in the overtime win on Friday.
Talbot has played especially well against the Ducks this season and throughout his eight-year NHL career.
He has made three starts against Anaheim this season and is 1-2 with a 1.34 goals-against average and .951 save percentage. In his career, Talbot is 11-7-2 against Anaheim with a 2.04 GAA and .935 save percentage, well above his career marks of 2.60 and .916.
One of the positives for the Ducks has been the development of Max Comtois, who scored his team-leading 15th goal on Friday. He has found chemistry lately on a line with fellow youngsters Trevor Zegras and Troy Terry.
Zegras has six points (one goal, five assists) in six games since he was recalled from San Diego of the American Hockey League after spending a month transitioning to center.
“We have fun,” Comtois said. “We’re all different types of players. We’re contributing to our game, and it’s fun to play with those guys. I mean, we’re trying to build something here and, hopefully, for the future, we can stay together, and we can keep having fun like we have in the past recent games.”
–Field Level Media