BACK IN LINE
Good news for the Canucks, who are coming off two wins in a row is the Wild are coming off two straight road losses to divisional rivals, Calgary and Edmonton.
To add to that, the Canucks expect to welcome Taylor Pyatt back in the lineup after missing four games with an AC sprain. Alain Vigneault will wait to see how Pyatt feels after practice before making the final decision.
"It feels good, no pain out there and did a little contact," said Pyatt after practice yesterday morning. "Everything else feels fine so I'm excited about getting back on it."
With the Canucks offence on the rise, Pyatt's return couldn't have come at a better time. Pyatt is the second leading goal scorer on the team.
"I'll try to prepare myself to come back and play. The team's playing really well so I'm going to come in, play hard, and contribute, help the team continue to play well."
At 6'4, 220 pounds, the big body will help the Canucks newly rejuvenated power-play. Marc Chouinard, who recently scored his first of the season may be replaced on the power-play with Pyatt in the lineup.
Pyatt's return will be a positive reinforcement for everybody on the team.
"He creates a lot of havoc in front of the net, especially on the power-play, he's a tough guy to move and he's got good hands in front," said Brendan Morrison. "If we can get puck through to him and let him do his thing then he should be a big asset for us." Sami Salo
was rewarded with a day off yesterday to rest but is not expected to play tonight against the Wild. Vigneault aims for Salo's return on the Canucks upcoming four-game road trip. TWO IN A ROW
It's been said before and it must be said again. Divisional games are important. They are especially important when there are two in a row and these two points means going from fifth in the division to being second.
The 3-8-1 record against the Northwest doesn't look good for the Canucks but with a win against Calgary Thursday and two games against the Wild, things could start to turn around.
"Most important game of the year, we're into that cliche, we can't change it, we just have to take each one as the challenge comes and move on," said Matt Cooke.
They just have to worry about what they're doing and continue their style of play for the full 60 minute to succeed against a tough Minnesota team, who they've played twice in their building, walking away with one point.
"You can't just focus on the second game," said Cooke. "You have to focus on the first one and it happens to be here in our building on a Saturday night. We need to be successful and that's our only focus."
Hopefully they can carry the momentum of last game into this one and continue this winning streak. A challenge for the Canucks, who haven't been able to win more than three games in a row all season.
"I know we played pretty well the last four games," says Pyatt. "Two more divisional games coming up back-to-back so it should be fun."
"That's the key here is to keep it going and continue to build," said Morrison. "It's only been three out of four and we'd like to get a lot more points here heading into the Christmas break but it's something to build off of." DISCIPLINARY ACTION
The last game saw some penalty trouble for the Canucks but against the fourth best power-play in the league, taking eight or nine penalties will make the difference.
"We have to be really disciplined," said Morrison. "They've got good special teams, good power-play and they obviously play a very disciplined system. We can't really deviate, can't get caught trying to force pucks to the middle with these guys. These guys feast on turnover so it'll be a focal point in the game."
"They obviously have a great system and a good coaching staff," said Markus Naslund. "But it'll be fine and we know what to expect and they're a tough team to play against. We have to be committed to play them the same way."
This will be the first visit to Vancouver for the Wild hoping to end their two-game Northwest losing streak and sixth consecutive road loss. The Canucks are starting to build momentum at home having won seven of their last nine at GM Place.
"These guys have beaten us a couple of times in their building so it's kind of the same boat as it was last night with Calgary and we want to make amends for earlier losses," said Morrison. "We just want to focus on our game and make sure we're doing all the right things."
"With Minnesota you have to show the right type of patience and high percentage plays otherwise they pounce on you when you make bad decisions with the puck," said Vigneault. "Different challenge [then Calgary] but I think it's as big a challenge."