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First place on the line for Canucks, Wild

Wednesday, 08.06.2014 / 4:52 AM

CANUCKS (11-6-6) at WILD (12-9-2)

TV: SNET-P, FS-N

Last 10: Vancouver 3-3-4; Minnesota 6-3-1

Season series: This is the third of four meetings; the final one is March 18. The Vancouver Canucks won the prior two, 4-1 on Feb. 7 at Minnesota and 2-1 on Feb. 12 at home.

Big story: This game is for first place in the Northwest Division. Vancouver continues to pick up points while in a bit of a slide, going 3-4-4 since last playing the Minnesota Wild, who can tie them for first place with a regulation victory.

The Canucks have won the division four seasons in a row.

"[Sunday] is the halfway point in the season and usually the second half is the playoff push," goalie Cory Schneider told the Vancouver Sun on Saturday. "It's one thing to be in games but I think we need to have that urgency and that instinct to separate ourselves during a game, or to put teams away, or win those close ones. Instead of kind of hanging around and being in a game, I think we need to be dominant in games at some point."

Team Scope:

Canucks: Defenseman Kevin Bieksa has missed five of the past six games with a groin injury, and Vancouver has lost every one. His only appearance was in a 5-2 win over the Los Angeles Kings on March 2. He is not expected to play Sunday.

"It's not just one guy," associate coach Rick Bowness told the Sun. "We had a breakaway [Thursday] night and we had a couple of other great chances and we're not capitalizing on them. So the chances to score more than one goal and get us a win have been there. Kevin is a huge part of our hockey club and do we miss him? Absolutely. Could we have won games without him? Yeah, we could have."

The Canucks have not played since Thursday. They practiced Friday in Columbus and Saturday in Minnesota, when they were made to do push-ups if they failed during a power-play drill. The unit has not scored in its past seven games.

Schneider, with a .931 save percentage this month, will start his third straight.

"I think Cory has played well and given us a chance to win every game," coach Alain Vigneault said.

Wild: Minnesota made it through defenseman Ryan Suter's return to Nashville, where he left to sign with the Wild as a free agent this summer. He had an assist on the goal in a 2-1 shootout win against the Predators.

The Wild traveled late Saturday night home to Minnesota, losing an hour to daylight-saving time, with Vancouver already there waiting for them.

"You do the best you can to get as much rest as you can, [get] proper nutrition," forward Matt Cullen told FOX Sports. "It sets us up for a big weekend, where we can look back and say this is where we turned it around and got us into the playoffs."

Saturday was Minnesota's 11th game this season when it has scored once in regulation. They've won five of them in overtime or a shootout.

"That was a hard game ... it almost had playoff feel to it, that game," coach Mike Yeo said. "It's real important we feel good about it for a little bit then get ready to hit the reset button. We've got another tough one [Sunday]."

Forward Cal Clutterbuck returned from injury to deliver eight hits.

"Right from the start you could tell he was on top of his game," Yeo said. "You can see the impact he has on the ice. … It's a good thing for the other team to know that he's coming."

Goalie Matt Hackett could get the call in this second of a back-to-back in place of Niklas Backstrom.

Who's hot: Canucks forward Henrik Sedin has 15 points in his past 11 games. Forward Jannik Hansen has five points in the past four; defenseman Dan Hamuis has four. … Suter has a goal and six assists in a six-game point streak. Forward Mikko Koivu has eight points in his past six games.

Injury report: Canucks forward Tim Sestito (hip flexor) was injured in practice Saturday. If he can't play, the team might have to recall a forward, as it's also without Ryan Kesler (foot) and Manny Malhotra (eye). Bieksa will skate on his own again Sunday, and defenseman Keith Ballard (charley horse) will take part in the morning skate. … The Wild recalled Hackett on Friday to replace goalie Darcy Kuemper (groin). Goalie Josh Harding is sidelined by symptoms related to multiple sclerosis.

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