The Vancouver Canucks close out their season series against the Minnesota Wild tonight at Rogers Arena when they face their former Northwest Division foe for the third time in 16 days.
You can understand if the Canucks are getting a little sick of seeing the Wild these days. What would make them even sicker, however, would be failing to beat the Wild for the first time this season in their final opportunity to. Vancouver, thanks to a 3-2 loss in Calgary on Saturday, sits just two points ahead of Minnesota in the Western Conference standings. An outright loss tonight, coupled with a Flames win over the Bruins on the out-of-town scoreboard, and suddenly the Canucks would be perilously close to falling outside the playoff picture altogether.
Compounding the Canucks' recent woes is the fact they also lost one of their top defencemen in Alexander Edler in Calgary to injury leaving their blue-line, which is already without Kevin Bieksa and Frank Corrado, extremely thin. Yannick Weber is the only extra healthy defenceman still available to the Canucks and he'll slot back in if Edler can't go. Newcomer Brandon McMillan, who has yet to debut with the Canucks, also has some experience playing defence in junior although if he does finally get into the lineup it would be as a forward.
Puck drop at 7 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
There is no team in the NHL that's hotter right than the Wild who roll into Rogers Arena tonight with just one regulation loss in their last 13 outings (10-1-2) and they haven't just been a one-trick pony. As much has been made about the incredible start to Devan Dubnyk's career as a Wild, it hasn't just been all about the new netminder or their defence. Case and point in their last outing against Carolina - not unlike their 5-3 win over the Canucks on February 9 - it was their offence that bailed them out and won them the game. In their last 13 games, Minnesota has scored four-or-more goals on five occasions.
As for where the offence has been coming from, as far as the season series goes, it's been spread out quite nicely. Minnesota has scored nine combined goals in two games against Vancouver and all of them have come off the stick of a different skater. Mikko Koivu, one of the few Wild skaters without a goal in the season series, is tied for the points lead in the season series with three. Defenceman Ryan Suter is the other skater with three points having tallied a goal and two helpers.
Keys to the Game
Miller (or Lack) steals one. Just like Karri Ramo did for the Flames against the Canucks on Saturday, Vancouver could certainly use a stand-on-his-head performance from their starter tonight against the red hot Wild. At the very least, he's got to stop the first shot he faces and try and give his team a chance to take a lead, something Vancouver has not enjoyed yet in the season series.
Break their PK. On paper this is no contest. Vancouver has only struck on the power play in just two of their last 12 outings, while Minnesota is perfect on the PK in their last nine straight games. But if the Canucks are finally going bump their slump against the Wild, this is where it's going to have to start.
Don't get sloppy. If the Wild has one concern about the way they have played in the season series, it's that despite jumping out to big leads in both games they've allowed the Canucks to claw their way back to a degree. That's something they'll want to avoid tonight if they're able to build another advantage.
By the Numbers
Win percentage for the Canucks last season without Alexander Edler in the lineup (11-4-4).
Save percentage for Ryan Miller against the Wild this season (8 goals allowed on 37 shots).
GAA for Devan Dubnyk since joining the Wild (he has a .938 save percentage).
Game point streak for the Wild (8-0-2) entering tonight's game, tied for a franchise record.
Straight starts for Minnesota's Devan Dubnyk. He has started every game since he was acquired by the Wild.
Power play efficiency rate for the Wild in the season series (3 goals on 7 power plays).