THE VANCOUVER SUN
Canucks suffer another costly loss: Wild up next after defeat to bottom-feeding Kings
Elliott Pap said the Canucks recent skid is proving costly in an air-tight division.
“The Canucks enter tonight's home date with the Minnesota Wild in the throes of a three-game losing streak and a dismal stretch of nine in which they have just one regulation victory and two more by shootout,” said Pap.
“In their last six, they have but a solitary shootout triumph. In their last two at home, where they were nearly perfect for two months, they have lost outright to the Phoenix Coyotes and Los Angeles Kings, the latter prevailing 4-3 on Saturday despite sitting 30th in the 30-team in NHL.”
“The Canucks may still be in contention for the Northwest Division title, but they are also in contention to miss the playoffs as pursuers like Columbus, St. Louis, Nashville and Phoenix inch ever closer,” said Pap.
"Obviously it's a concern," said Canuck defenceman Sami Salo
. "We haven't played the way we want to be playing. If you look at how tight everything is, obviously we need to be better."
“The Canucks were better offensively against the Kings, flinging a season-high 46 shots on Langley's Jason LaBarbera, but again lacked finish. The bigger problem was the bumbling in their own zone,” said Pap.
“Minnesota figures to be a lot less accommodating than the Kings in the chance and shot department.”
"It's always a chess match against Minnesota," said Daniel Sedin
, who earned one assist Saturday. "We're going to have to play the same way we did against L.A. I don't think we played a bad game, we just couldn't score. Minnesota plays a little more defensively but we still have to keep shooting. You're not going to get 40 shots, that's pretty good, but it should be our goal."
“Kesler was among the most frustrated of Canucks against L.A. Not only did he lose Dustin Brown on the 3-0 goal, he also had a glorious last-second chance to tie the game when sent in alone by Henrik Sedin
,” said Pap.
“LaBarbera stopped Kesler to preserve the bottom-feeding Kings' third straight win over Vancouver. It is shades of two seasons ago when last-place St. Louis, led by Curtis Sanford, beat the Canucks four straight and Vancouver wound up missing the playoffs by three points.”
"L.A. may be in last place in the conference but, as I've said before, there are no easy games in this league," noted Daniel Sedin
. "If their goalie is hot, or if their power play or penalty killing is good that night, they are going to win the game."
Showdown? No, it's just Game 48: Leg broken by an Ohlund slash but Koivu says revenge not on his mind
Gordon McIntyre said the divisional importance of tonight’s two points outweigh the temptation of revenge.
“With Mikko Koivu and Mattias Ohlund about to meet on the same sheet of ice for the first time since the Vancouver Canucks defenceman broke the leg of the Minnesota Wild centre with a timber-felling whack two months ago, tonight's tilt isn't just any old game,” said McIntyre.
“No, according to the Wild, it's Game 48 on the schedule.”
“That's it. Nothing more, nothing less. Two important points against a divisional opponent up for grabs. A road trip to get off on the right foot against three Northwest teams in cities in which the Wild have yet to win this season,” said McIntyre.
"I'm just going to play my game. That's about it," said Koivu, who'll lace up for the fifth time since breaking his leg Nov. 16 in a 6-2 Canucks win at GM Place, after the Wild practised at the scene of the crime Sunday.
"You know what? I wasn't thinking about that at all myself," Wild coach Jacques Lemaire said of whether folks should expect fireworks. "I won't even talk about that. It's not important to me."
“Even Derek Boogaard -- the Wild's Brobdignagian enforcer who notoriously singled out Markus Naslund, "Pinky" and "Brain" for retribution, and who called Ryan Kesler
"just a bad guy" after Ohlund's Bunyanesque chop on Koivu -- said he hopes a hockey game breaks out,” said McIntyre.
"Nothing will happen," the 6-foot-7, 270-pound forward said. "We're going to come out and be ready to play. It's the two points that matter right now."
“The Canucks didn't practice Sunday and weren't available to talk about the game. Given that Ice Capades broke out in the first Canucks-Wild game after the Nov. 16 injury to Koivu (five days later, with Ohlund suspended), maybe the duller-than-dishwater non-dissing that went on Sunday will be a harbinger of extra-curricular activity tonight,” said McIntyre.
“Or ... maybe not.”
“Not when Colorado and Calgary are tied for first place in the division with 56 points and when the Wild and Canucks are just one back with 55 points.”
"It's a big trip for us, it's three tough games. We have to prepare really good and play our game," said Koivu.
THE VANCOUVER SUN
Willie be back soon? Nobody knows
Elliott Pap said the extent of Willie Mitchell’s injury is unknown.
“Veteran Canuck blueliner Mattias Ohlund returned Saturday from his 11-game concussion-related absence but Willie Mitchell (sore back) couldn't answer the bell and might be out for a while,” said Pap.
“It was the first game Mitchell has missed this season, leaving Aaron Miller as the only member of the Canucks' top six to suit up for all 48 contests. Kevin Bieksa
has missed 36 games, followed by Sami Salo
at 17, Ohlund 15 and Lukas Krajicek 11.”
"Willie's had this problem, a spasm or whatever you want to call it, for the past nine games and it's been getting worse," explained Canuck head coach Alain Vigneault. "I really have no idea if he'll be back before the All-Star break. Our doctors will check him out again [today] and we'll see what happens."
“Ohlund, meanwhile, played 23:09 and finished minus-1 with two shots and two hits in the 4-3 loss to L.A,” said Pap.
"I felt pretty good, I felt fine," Ohlund said. "It's been a tough few weeks and it's nice to be back."
“NAZZY FETED: Captain Markus Naslund was honoured in a six-minute pre-game ceremony Saturday to commemorate his 1,000th game in the NHL. He received a silver-plated stick and puck, a trip to Hawaii, a Tiffany crystal and a plaque with the jersey he wore in game 1,000 against Detroit,” said Pap.
"It's overwhelming," commented Naslund. "This is just a class organization. I can't say enough good things about them."