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Both the Anaheim Ducks and the Minnesota Wild appear to have benefited from some time off during the All-Star break.
These playoff hopefuls meet for the third time this season on Wednesday night, with the Ducks seeking a third straight victory and the Wild looking for their third win in four games overall.
Anaheim (26-22-5) lost six of eight contests heading into the break, but has since won three of four to overtake fifth place in the Western Conference as it tries for a fourth consecutive playoff berth.
Monday's 3-2 victory over visiting Buffalo was the Ducks' second straight, and has them on the verge of their first three-game winning streak since reeling off four in a row from Nov. 22-30.
"It's nice to have three of four. We just have to keep it going," said winger Corey Perry, who scored the game-winner against the Sabres. "It's a battle out there. These points are crucial. We're after the All-Star break, so everybody is pushing for playoff spots."
Minnesota (25-21-3), four points behind Anaheim in the West, is vying for its third straight postseason appearance.
The Wild have won five of their last eight contests, and Saturday night's 4-3 overtime victory at Vancouver was their second in three games since the break.
"We all knew what was on the table. We had to win this one and just keep being in the mix," said Minnesota defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron, who had two goals and an assist versus the Canucks.
Though the Wild rank among the lowest-scoring clubs in the league with 2.6 goals per game, they have averaged 3.5 over their last eight contests. Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Mikko Koivu each have three goals and seven assists during that stretch. Marek Zidlicky has added four goals and seven assists in his last nine games.
Minnesota, though, has struggled on offense in two matchups versus the Ducks this season. After the Wild fell 4-2 in Anaheim on Dec. 14, Ducks backup Jonas Hiller made 30 saves for his fourth shutout of the season in a 3-0 win at Xcel Energy Center on Jan. 17.
Hiller is 2-0 with a 1.89 goals-against average in four career appearances against Minnesota.
He is 7-4-0 with a 2.13 GAA in his last 12 games overall, and made 21 saves Monday in his fourth outing since the break. All-Star starter Jean-Sebastien Giguere, meanwhile, is 1-5-2 with a 3.68 GAA in his last nine contests for the Ducks.
While Anaheim's goaltending situation is uncertain for Wednesday, Minnesota is likely to open its four-game homestand with Niklas Backstrom in net.
The All-Star has won six of his last nine starts at Xcel Energy Center, and is 8-4-0 with a 2.17 GAA in his last 12 games overall.
To continue his recent success, Backstrom will have to contain a Ducks offense which has scored 16 goals in four games since the All-Star break. Anaheim has at least one power-play goal in nine consecutive games, and scored two on Monday.
Perry has five goals and three assists during a five-game point streak against the Wild.
Anaheim, which is opening a three-game road trip, has won two of its last three visits to Minnesota after losing five straight there.
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