Fight for First
First place in the Northwest division is on the line tonight with the surging Minnesota Wild visiting Rogers Arena.
The Canucks haven't had to fight for the division lead this late in the season the past couple of seasons, but with the offseason additions Minnesota made, Alain Vigneault isn't surprised to be in the situation.
"They've improved their team. They brought in some impact players so they are better than they were last year," said Vigneault. "They've always been, in my opinion, a very competitive team and this year even more."
The tightly packed standings makes games like tonights a lot more fun for Chris Higgins.
"There's a lot more to play for I guess," said Higgins. "The last couple years we have been playing for the overall title but this year there are more and more divisional matchups. It's been tough games against these guys this year and I expect another hardworking game tonight."
Ballard, Schroeder Return
The Canucks will feature a much different looking line-up as Keith Ballard and Jordan Schroeder draw in.
Ballard has been in and out of the line-up recently playing in only two games this month, but he isn't letting the lack of game time affect him.
"I'm comfortable with my game," said Ballard. "It's a different situation. It sucks sitting out but it's part of it."
Ballard was skating in the team's morning skate alongside Chris Tanev.
Another Minnesota-born Canuck, Jordan Schroeder, returns to the line-up tonight following his recall from the Canucks AHL affliate, the Chicago Wolves.
Schroeder is expected to arrive in Vancouver later this afternoon and will skate on a line with Chris Higgins and Steve Pinizzotto.
Injuries to David Booth, and Zack Kassian required the 22 year-old's return to the big club after a three game trip to the minors.
Schroeder recorded four points in three games with the Wolves since being sent down earlier this month earning the promotion from Wolves head coach Scott Arneil who called Schroeder the team's best forward.
Alain Vigneault had no update on Booth, who is being evaluated this afternoon after injuring his foot on Saturday night. Kassian remain day-to-day with a bad back.
Roberto Luongo will be the starting goalie for the fourth consecutive game. Luongo has had tremendous success against the Wild in Vancouver, recording three shutouts in his previous four games.
The 33 year-old made 25 saves in a 2-1 win in his only game against the Wild this season.