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At the Rink: Wild at Canucks

by Kevin Woodley

VANCOUVER -- The Vancouver Canucks will have to try and hold off the hard-charging Minnesota Wild and hold onto a Stanley Cup Playoff spot without their best defenseman.

Alexander Edler won't play against the Wild on Monday after leaving in the second period of a 3-2 loss to the Calgary Flames on Saturday with an upper-body injury.

Coach Willie Desjardins said Edler was being re-evaluated, so he didn't have an update on how long he might be out. But he didn't expect Edler to play against the Wild, who can catch the Canucks and move into a Stanley Cup Playoff berth with a regulation win in Vancouver and a loss by the Calgary Flames.

Ending Minnesota's 8-0-1 run since the All-Star break, which includes two wins already this month against the Canucks, won't be easy without Edler. The 6-foot-3 Swede often plays against opponents' best forwards on the top pairing, and is on the No. 1 power-play and penalty-kill units. He leads the defense with 17 points and the team in ice time at 24:10, almost three minutes more than anyone else.

"He's the full package and he plays a lot of important minutes for us," said Dan Hamhuis, who replaces Edler on a top pair with Christopher Tanev. "Alex is a huge part of the defense. He's logged the most minutes of anyone. He plays in all situations. He's having a great year. It's going to be a big hole, but we have been used to that this year."

Hamhuis missed two months earlier this season. Fellow defenseman Kevin Bieksa has been out since late January with a broken hand that required surgery, and impressive rookie call-up Frank Corrado has been out since Feb. 1 with an upper-body injury.

Vancouver called up defenseman Alex Biega from the American Hockey League on Monday, but he will watch as Yannick Weber draws back into Edler's spot in the lineup. Weber was scratched in 10 of the past 16 games, but will play alongside Luca Sbisa, who shifts from the right to his natural left side on a new second pairing.

Adam Clendening, acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks on Jan. 29, takes Edler's spot as the only defenseman on the top power play.

"Me and (Radim Vrbata) have to establish the shot up top and a lot of the down low plays will open," Clendening said. "(Edler) was our go-to guy on the back end and we lose a lot of minutes too, so it spreads out, but we've always been a community group back there."

Vancouver will need contributions from everyone to beat the streaking Wild, who have a chance to move back into a playoff spot for the first time since late November. Minnesota can move into a tie with the Canucks at 65 points, and if the Calgary Flames lose to the Boston Bruins it's a three-way tie. Minnesota can't pass Vancouver in the Western Conference standings because the Canucks have the tiebreaker, but Calgary has played more games than either team.

Vancouver had a seven-point lead over the Wild and a chance to increase the gap when they met on Feb. 1. Instead, after losing that night and again in Minnesota on Feb. 9, the cushion is down to two.

"Obviously a big game tonight, but there is still an awful lot of hockey left in the season," coach Mike Yeo said. "We're pleased we got ourselves back in the mix, but that's all we've done."

Minnesota was in a 2-8-4 funk before acquiring goaltender Devan Dubnyk from the Arizona Coyotes on Jan. 14. Dubnyk, who will start his career-high 14th straight against the Canucks, is 10-1-1 with a 1.60 goals-against average and .938 save percentage since joining the Wild.

"He was a calming factor and a big confidence booster," Yeo said.

Here are the projected lineups:


Zach Parise - Mikko Koivu - Jason Pominville

Thomas Vanek - Mikael Granlund - Justin Fontaine

Nino Niederreiter - Charlie Coyle - Jordan Schroeder

Stephane Veilleux - Erik Haula - Kyle Brodziak

Ryan Suter - Jonas Brodin

Marco Scandella - Jared Spurgeon

Nate Prosser - Matt Dumba

Devan Dubnyk

Darcy Kuemper

Scratched: Stu Bickel, Niklas Backstrom

Injured: Jason Zucker (clavicle), Matt Cooke (sports hernia), Ryan Carter (upper body), Keith Ballard (head/face)


Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Alexandre Burrows

Chris Higgins - Linden Vey - Radim Vrbata

Derek Dorsett - Shawn Matthias - Zack Kassian

Ronalds Kenins - Bo Horvat - Jannik Hansen

Dan Hamhuis - Christopher Tanev

Luca Sbisa - Yannick Weber

Ryan Stanton - Adam Clendening

Eddie Lack

Ryan Miller

Scratched: Brandon McMillan, Alex Biega

Injured: Alexander Edler (upper body), Frank Corrado (upper body), Nick Bonino (lower body), Kevin Bieksa (broken hand), Brad Richardson (ankle)

Status update: Lack gets something of a surprise start against the Wild after watching Ryan Miller play both ends of back-to-back games Friday and Saturday. Miller was pulled after giving up five goals on 18 shots in Minnesota on Feb. 9, and Lack stopped all 14 shots he faced in relief. "Sometimes you think you're going to get one and you don't get it and sometimes you think you are not going to get it, and you get it," Lack said of the start. "Right now I am just looking forward to every possibility to playing. It's a big game for us." … Yeo contemplated inserting big forward Stu Bickel into the lineup in anticipation of a physical game against the Canucks, but will stick with the lineup that won 6-3 against the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday. That includes Fontaine moving up from the fourth line to the second line with Vanek and Granlund.

Who's hot: Parise has scored in consecutive games and has nine goals in his past 13 games. … Kassian has three goals and two assists in his past five games after being a healthy scratch in the previous three games.

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