Facing the prospect of a potentially disastrous home stand through its first five games, the Canucks needed a confidence booster and a win in the worst way when they wrapped things up on Saturday and they certainly got that with an impressive 5-0 shutout over the Penguins. The timing couldn't have been better as the Canucks need to feel good about their play heading into tonight's game against the Wild, arguably the hottest team in the league right now having won five in a row and with points in eight of their last nine outings.
Saturday's win allowed the Canucks to move back into third spot in the Pacific Division and close to within two points of the second-place Sharks. While Vancouver is still looking to move up in the standings, this game is also about trying to halt the hard-charging Wild. Minnesota, which beat the Canucks 4-2 just eight days ago, begins play just five points behind Vancouver in the standings and they could be a factor if the Canucks drop back down into the race for a wildcard spot.
Puck drop at 5 pm PT – Live on Sportsnet Pacific, TSN 1040, or online at tsn1040.ca.
Regular Season Record
2014.15 Season Series
Last 10 games
Last 10 head-to-head
It wasn't that long ago when the Wild seemed destined to finish far outside the playoff picture but the arrival of Devan Dubnyk has certainly turned things around. Now riding a season-high five-game win streak, the Wild will be looking to inch even closer to a post-season spot against one of the teams they happen to be chasing. Although the wins have been nice, it hasn't all been rosy for the Wild. Matt Cooke was recently sidelined with sports hernia surgery while Justin Fontaine still has not yet returned from a groin problem. The injuries have allowed former Canuck first-rounder Jordan Schroeder to earn a call-up to the main roster although Fontaine could return tonight which would likely mean Schroeder won't get an opportunity to face his former club for the first time in his young career.
One player who most certainly will play in tonight's game for Minnesota is veteran defenceman Ryan Suter, who was questionable for the last game against the Canucks back on February 1 but ended up logging a game-high 27:55 of ice-time. Suter, along with regular defence partner Jonas Brodin, will be tasked with frustrating the Canucks' top scorers which means the Sedin line can expect a steady dose of that duo.
Keys to the Game
Don't let the Wild strike first. A big reason why Minnesota is on a five-game win streak? Because they haven't trailed for even a single second. As great as Dubnyk has been, if Minnesota is forced to open things up then the protection that they can afford to give their new netminder might just break down as well.
Make Dad proud. With the Canucks hosting their fathers' trip on this two-game road swing, it means they'll have more-than-usual support in the crowd. If there's one person in the world you don't want to disappoint, it's definitely dear old dad. The Canucks can use that for motivation.
Watch those shots. For the most part, the Wild has done a tremendous job limiting opposition shots. One of the few exceptions during their recent string of wins was against the Canucks where they allowed 37. They'll want to limit the shots against especially versus a Canucks team that actually brings a few hot sticks into tonight's tilt.
By the Numbers
Power play goals allowed by the Wild during their five-game win streak.
Game point streak for Radim Vrbata entering play tonight. He has two goals and six points during the streak.
Shutouts posted by the Canucks this season, equaling their total from last season.
Shutouts recorded by the Wild this season, one shy of tying their franchise record for most in a single season.
Straight home games the Wild has scored three-or-fewer goals in.
Minutes and 39 seconds without a goal allowed by the Wild in consecutive playing time (last goal surrendered was to Daniel Sedin on Feb. 1).