Wild start homestand vs. Northwest-leading Canucks
Wednesday, 02.08.2012 / 2:32 PMCANUCKS (33-15-5) at WILD (25-20-8)
TV: SNET-P (HD), FS-N (HD), FS-WI (HD)
Vancouver 7-1-2; Minnesota 3-5-2
Fifth of six meetings between these Northwest Division rivals. Vancouver has won three of four, but Minnesota's lone victory came in the only game they've played so far at Xcel Energy Center. The Wild have been done in by the Sedin twins, with Daniel posting 2 goals and 8 points while Henrik follows with 1 goal and 6 points. Roberto Luongo
has recorded shutouts in both of his starts this season and has three in a row against Minnesota dating back to last April.
Clinging to the eighth seed in the Western Conference with four teams directly on their tail, the Wild get a huge boost with the return of captain Mikko Koivu
to the lineup. He missed the past eight games with an upper-body injury. The Wild begin a four-game homestand the hard way by facing a Canucks squad that is fighting for the No. 1 seed Minnesota once occupied. The Wild didn't do themselves any favors Tuesday when they lost to the last-place Blue Jackets, allowing the ninth-place Coyotes to pull even with them in points.
A second-round playoff series with Nashville last spring might have turned for Vancouver when it took Game 3 in overtime on the Predators' ice. The Canucks played their first game at Bridgestone Arena this season on Tuesday night and needed to go beyond regulation again to win, as Alexander Edler
's goal in the sixth round of a shootout gave them a 4-3 win. It was their fifth straight game and eighth in 10 to be decided either in overtime or the penalty-shot tiebreaker. Byron Bitz
had a goal and an assist in his second game of the season.
"Keep my stick on the ice and get open," Bitz said about playing on a line with Henrik Sedin
and Mason Raymond
to start, and later with both Sedins. "But still I couldn't change anything, I'm not going to try to beat guys one-on-one … be smart with the puck, be smart, get deep and get some cycles going."
With an opportunity to earn five of a possible six points on a three-game road trip, Minnesota came away empty against an opponent it really can't afford to lose to with the West race as tight as it is. The Wild had shut out the Avalanche and earned a point in a shootout loss to the Stars, two other teams directly on their heels, but after evening the score against the Blue Jackets late in the first period on defenseman Nate Prosser
's first NHL goal, they were stymied the rest of the way by Curtis Stanford.
"The reality is that I don't think we deserved to win the game," coach Mike Yeo said. "It's a game of one-on-one battles and they got the better of us -- by a large margin -- in that department tonight."
Who's Hot: Ryan Kesler
has goals in four straight games for the Canucks. Overall, he has 5 goals and 1 assist during a six-game points streak. Luongo is 4-0-2 in his last six starts. … Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom
is 2-1-1 and has allowed just six goals over his last four starts, posting a .952 save percentage.
Injury Report: Henrik Sedin
missed practice Wednesday and was reportedly wearing a walking boot after blocking a shot against Nashville. His status for Thursday is unknown. Vancouver forward Chris Higgins
(illness) has missed the last three games, while forward Andrew Ebbett
(collarbone) is on injured reserve. … Minnesota defenseman Clayton Stoner
(lower body) has missed the last two games, while forwards Guillaume Latendresse
(post-concussion symptoms), Jarod Palmer
(upper body) and Pierre-Marc Bouchard
(concussion/groin) are on injured reserve.
Luongo stopped 37 of 40 shots against the Predators and hasn't lost in regulation (13-0-6) in his last 19 games facing 40 or more shots. … Erik Christensen
has registered a pair of shots in each of his first two games after being acquired from the Rangers.
Vancouver backup Cory Schneider
split a pair of decisions against Minnesota this season before Luongo blanked the Wild twice in the span of 17 days -- they represent his only shutouts this season.