GAME DAY NOTES
Today the Vancouver Canucks face a divisional battle against the Minnesota Wild. It is the fourth meeting out of six for the two teams this season. Winning the last three games against the Wild, the Canucks hope to repeat history and better their recent losses against the Calgary Flames last Saturday and the Nashville Predators on Monday.
Not counting Vancouver’s 5-2 win over Minnesota on November 5, every victory against the Wild has been a close call for the Canucks, who had to fight hard on October 17 to end the game at 2-1, and on December 12, when forward Ryan Kesler got one past Minnesota goaltender Josh Harding in the third to ensure a Vancouver win. The game ended at 4-3 for the Canucks.
Before Vancouver’s recent four game home stand, the Canucks won three out of their four games on the road, first against the Calgary Flames on December 27 (5-1), then the St. Louis Blues on December 31 (4-3), and finally the Dallas Stars on January 2 (3-1). Vancouver is currently third place in the Northwest Division with 56 points, following behind the Flames and the Avalanche who are tied for first with 58 points.
The Wild have made good use of their three consecutive home games and have defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins, Calgary Flames, and Chicago Blackhawks, three very strong contenders in the NHL. Their recent win against Pittsburg brought them within four points of the LA Kings who hold eighth place in the Western Conference.
The Wild have been successful even without injured forward Pierre-Marc Bouchard, who has proven to be an asset to the team in previous seasons with 46 points in 2008-2009 and 63 points in 2007-2008. Minnesota currently holds fourth place in the Northwest Division with 49 points, one spot below Vancouver, and is ninth place in the Western Conference.
The Canucks plan to come out strong in tonight’s match to end their two-game winless streak and to ensure Minnesota doesn’t creep any closer to a playoff spot. Henrik Sedin, currently on a ten game point streak, has been excelling game to game with line mates Daniel Sedin, who has accumulated 36 points since his return from a foot injury, and Alex Burrows, who has scored nine goals in the last five games, six of which were two consecutive hat tricks.
Ryan Johnson (foot) and Pavol Demitra (shoulder) will not be playing in tonight’s game but have travelled with the team to Minnesota. Steve Bernier is still healing from a tweaked groin from the match against Calgary last Saturday. Jannik Hansen will play in his place tonight.
MIKE GILLIS SPEAKS
Canucks President Mike Gillis spoke Tuesday about the Alex Burrows issue that occurred during their game against the Nashville Predators on Monday, where Burrows was penalized by official Stephane Auger in the last five minutes of the third period for interference. Due to a possible vendetta towards Burrows from Auger, Burrows took offense to the given penalty, causing him to receive two more penalties in the last minute of the third period for unsportsmanlike conduct and misconduct.
“In these circumstances the league takes control of the matter when they’re dealing with their employees,” said Gillis. “We’re not involved in that process other than to support Alex and to support his position in this and that’s what we fully intend to do. So as it unfolds we’ll see what level of involvement we’re entitled to and we’ll act accordingly.”
Gillis was asked if he had ever seen issues like this happen in his career.
“Well in Boston we always felt that we entered every game down two minors,” said Gillis. “That was the nature of the game. I’m sure they felt the same way in Philadelphia, any team that was considered an aggressive team. You also in any business and any walk of life you have reputations and Alex is a very passionate player he’s got a great story and how his career has evolved. One of the reasons he got into this league was because he plays hard and he plays with a lot of energy and he’s involved. He’s made a career out of that style of play. He’s very good at it and we can see the results now. I almost think that there is an element of I wouldn’t say bias, but there’s always predetermined sort of ideas about different things and right or wrong they’re just everywhere.”
The goal for Gillis is to support his team in moving on and not letting the past game affect them in future games.
“Our objective is now to recover and get prepared for our next game. We don’t have the luxury to look back and whine about it we have to move on and we have to get prepared and we have to win games.”
Burrows faced a $2,500 fine for speaking out against Auger, but is not suspended, which leaves him able to skate with the Canucks tonight when they play the Wild.