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In The Wild

by Staff Writer / Vancouver Canucks



In the now infamous tight Northwest battle, the Canucks have had to deal with their own battle. Injuries that have plagued the Canucks since the beginning of the season continue to do so but they potentially have a full roster tonight in Minnesota.

Fans will likely see Sami Salo on this road trip but not in tonight's pivotal game against the Wild.

"I think today there was a little bit more light in the tunnel," said Salo yesterday after practice. "It was the first practice that I started to feel more comfortable out there and doing a little bit of battling, a little bit more shooting. We'll just take it the same as we have before this, go day-by-day and see how it responds to different activities and that's what we're doing."

"I think mobility isn't really the issue, I think pain and strength are going to be the issues."

Salo will not dress tonight but his recovery is going well and hopes to return for Thursday.

The Canucks have not dressed a regular lineup for either games in St. Paul. Former Wilds Marc Chouinard and Willie Mitchell sat out one game each.

"You have to weather the storm when you have injuries," said Willie Mitchell. "It's how you handle those and that makes the big difference come the stretch in the last ten games and playoff time. Some teams can make excuses and dig themselves a big hole but if you can get through that and maybe with some .500 hockey, you set yourself up alright."

The Canucks are not making any excuses and playing at two games above .500 are setting themselves up to be a much more confident team going into Minnesota.

"It doesn't really happen that often during the season that you have all your personnel," said Alain Vigneault. "Injuries are just part of the game and whether guys are all there or not, you've got to find a way to win with the personnel that you have available. If Sami's in tomorrow, great, and if he's not, then we're going to win with the guys that are there."


The Canucks took the first game of this back-to-back series on Saturday but they now enter the Xcel Energy Center, where the Wild are 12-3-1 this season and the Canucks 0-2.

"[Saturday's] game doesn't mean anything unless we win the next one against Minnesota," said Mitchell. "Otherwise it's just a wash. I'm looking forward to that one. Two wins against them should be good for this team right now."

Getting this second win means first place in the division and third in the division, given that Colorado beats Edmonton tonight.

It won't be an easy task but the Canucks hope to carry their momentum to extend their three-game winning streak while the Wild try to snap a three-game losing streak. All three games are losses to teams in the Northwest division.

"I think we've played them enough times," said Markus Naslund. "We've played them a couple times this year in their building so we know if they get their momentum going, they're really tough to play."

"It's an exercise in patience," says Brendan Morrison. "It's not flashy when you play them. it's a little monotonous, it's just trying to move the puck north-south, you don't want to have too many turnovers."

"I think we're going to try to get pucks in, get in on the fore-check, cause turnovers, etcetera, and try to build off our third period from last game."

Although the Canucks pulled out a win last game, being out shot 29-18, there's an area of weakness they have to improve on right out of the gates to succeed.

"I think it comes down to our starts," said Naslund. "We haven't played well early in games here for the past couple weeks and we've been able to get some wins still but we can't rely on Roberto like we have."

"Something we have to work on is our consistency and we've made some positive strides here and we hope to continue our play at home on the road," said Morrison.

These positive strides have made a world of a difference in the team, who's shown more confidence and some goals on the scoreboard.

"Right now we've probably got the best three things going for a hockey team to be successful right now," said Mitchell. "We're getting excellent goaltending, our power-play's scoring, and we're getting good penalty killing. In the new NHL, it's a recipe for wins and so right now we're getting some wins off of that."

"I think offensively we're starting to get a little more rhythm and a little bit more puck luck and it's enabled us to score more goals," said Vigneault. "What we need to do is package that and bring that on the road."

The Canucks have the number one ranked penalty kill on home ice and sixth ranked penalty-kill overall. Although their new-look power-play is still only ranked 23rd, it has scored 11 goals in the past seven games. Roberto Luongo has logged the most ice time amongst goalies and has a .913 save percentage.


With three games in four nights, including back-to-back games, Dany Sabourin may get his chance at another start, although nothing is set in stone.

"We'll see how it goes," said Vigneault. "We've got a lot of travel this week, three in four before three days break so we'll see how Roberto feels and take it from there."

"I think right now, we'll just focus on tomorrow night and just take it from there," said Luongo. "We've got a big game coming up tomorrow so we'll worry about that and see what happens."

All three games will be against teams in different divisions, including the first game against a team in the Northeast. The travel may be rough for Luongo, who's played in 32 games and over 1800 minutes.

"I was a little beat down after last week having back-to-back games here and in Calgary but coach gave me a day off last week and that really helped me out and I'm feeling good right now."

Luongo's presence has made a great impact on the team, who's helped the team to 17 wins this year.

"When you play in front of a great goalie, it can change the way you play," said Mitchell. "It gives the team confidence, that's no doubt, but not only that but on a defensive aspect, you can play a much more patient game."

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