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Canucks try to get back on track against Wild

by Matthew Mankiewich
WILD (37-34-8) at CANUCKS (52-19-9)


Last 10:
Minnesota 2-7-1; Vancouver 7-3-0

Season series:
Sixth and final meeting of the season between these Northwest Division rivals. Minnesota has a shot at a split, despite losing six in a row at Rogers Arena. All but the last two games were decided by four goals, the Mar. 14 matchup in Vancouver being the closest, a 4-2 Canucks win that extended their winning streak at the time to six games.

Team scope:

Having been knocked out of playoff contention thanks to an injury-spurred 2-9-1 stretch, coach Todd Richards is using the remainder of the schedule to take a look at the kids. Defensemen Maxim Noreau and Justin Falk were added Saturday to face the Lightning, then forwards Carson McMillan and Colton Gillies were called up to cut their teeth against the Red Wings on Sunday. McMillan scored a goal in his NHL debut, but the Wings prevailed 4-2.

"Pretty special, I guess. First game, first goal," McMillan said in the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "Would have been nice to get the win. We had a good effort. Just didn't show in the score."

In addition to Noreau and Falk, Richards had another pair of rookie defensemen to roll out in Justin Spurgeon and Clayton Stoner. All four were a combined minus-1 versus one of the League's most prolific offenses.

Canucks: The Canucks are playing out the string in a different respect, but even with the Presidents' Trophy and home-ice advantage all wrapped up, a home-and-home sweep at the hands of the Edmonton Oilers still leaves a bad aftertaste.

"We're not happy about it," goalie Roberto Luongo said. "We played a decent game (in Tuesday's 2-0 loss) but we need to have that desperation level in our game. Right now we don't have much to play for and it is tough for some of the guys, but we know what we have to do. We need to have a couple good performances to get ready for the playoffs next week."

Coach Alain Vigneault is less concerned.

"We have a very veteran group who are very mature," Vigneault said. "They've always known what to do and I am very confident they will be fine."

Who's hot: Daniel Sedin leads the NHL with 100 points, but pulled an oh-fer against the Oilers while Tampa Bay's Martin St. Louis closed within five points of him with two games left to play. With Henrik at 92, it will be difficult for them to become the first brothers to go 1-2 in scoring in League history. It was just the third time Daniel had been held scoreless for more than one game. His longest point drought is three.

Injury report:
Of the Minnesota players not officially shut down for the season, forward Martin Havlat (upper body) will likely miss the last three games. Center John Madden (lower body), defensemen Cam Barker (back) and Marek Zidlicky (hamstring) have been out since Saturday.

Canucks defenseman Alexander Edler (back surgery) has been practicing and may get a couple of tune-ups in before the playoffs. Defenseman Dan Hamhuis (concussion) may do likewise. Defenseman Andrew Alberts (broken wrist) is practicing and could be back early in the playoffs, while Chris Tanev (upper body) and Lee Sweatt (broken foot) remain out indefinitely.

Stat pack:
Cory Schneider is 3-1-0 with a 1.63 goals-against average versus the Wild, and a start Thursday will give him the 25 necessary appearances to be included on the Jennings Trophy, which goes to the team with the fewest goals allowed in the season. All that depends, however, on whether the Canucks maintain a five-goal lead over the Bruins. It also makes him eligible for the Calder Trophy, though competition for that award is much tougher. Vigneault helped ensure Schneider would make the cut by playing him for the final 30 seconds of Tuesday's game.

Puck drop:
"It's been a letdown after we claimed the President's Trophy, for sure. It's tough games to play but at the same time we know we have to get better here in the last two games. At the same time it might be a good thing for us to not be cruising here and winning games. I think this is a wake-up call for us and I think in the long run it's going to be good for our team." -- Henrik Sedin via the Canadian Press on the Canucks' two-game stumble against the Oilers

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