By Josh Plummer
The Canucks were gracious hosts to their visiting rivals from the Midwest one day before a tilt for first place in the Northwest Division.
Vancouver is usually the first team to practice when they're at home - but they chose to let coach Jacques Lemaire and his Minnesota Wild take to the ice for an early 10 am skate at Burnaby's 8-Rinks on Saturday morning.
Minnesota is two hours ahead of Vancouver on the time zone schedule - so the early morning start may not have affected the Wild players' internal clocks, but at least it gave the Canucks enough time to stroll into the practice facility at a decent hour.
Could this be playoff gamesmanship in early March? Let's hope so. They don't call it home ice advantage for nothing.
Vancouver has added a sense of stability at the top of the Northwest recently - not relinquishing first place for what seems like weeks.
"We've played them enough to know what we have to bring," said Markus Naslund after practice. "They've beaten us in our building before so we'll have to come up with a great effort tomorrow."
The Wild trounced the Canucks 5-2 on their last visit to The Garage on January 11th.
Several hundred fans were on hand in Burnaby to get an up close look at some of their favorite Canucks - while handfuls of others were staking out the parking lot searching for autographs from Minnesota players before the team boarded their bus back to the hotel.
Kudos to the Wild for stopping and signing what they could. GIVE HIM WHAT HE WANTS
Inside the chilly complex, fans filled the stands with their digital cameras and cellphones in the air and even cheered loudly when Roberto Luongo
made brilliant saves off his own teammates.
Luongo is expecting the same kind of reception for tonight's all important contest.
"We're going to have to get up for this one," said Luongo afterwards. "It's at home so I'm sure the fans will be pumped up. There's going to be good energy in the building tomorrow night and that always elevates the guys' energy in the room when you've got a building rocking."
Did you read that Canuck fans? Roberto wants the place rockin' tonight!
The Canucks only have 18 games to go until seasons end - so games against divisional opponents are feeling more and more like potential playoff match-ups, and that's exactly how Vancouver are starting to treat them.
"You want to go in to the playoffs with a good feeling," added Naslund. "You want to feel like you're playing a good team game and we're working towards that."
If the Canuck players are gearing up for the post season - maybe it's time for Canuck fans to get their playoff groove on, too.
Luongo wants the place rockin'. Let's show him what we can do!