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Canucks-Wild Preview

GAME: Vancouver Canucks (21-11-5) at Minnesota Wild (17-17-4).

TIME: Saturday, 6 p.m. EST.

First place in the Northwest Division is up for grabs as the Vancouver Canucks play the Minnesota Wild at the XCel Energy Center.

Vancouver relinquished the top spot Thursday to the Calgary Flames, who beat the Wild 4-2.

The Canucks trail both the Flames and Edmonton Oilers by one point, and the two teams meet Saturday at Calgary.

Vancouver led the Northwest before enduring a recent five-game losing streak. The slide included a pair of losses to both Edmonton and Calgary, but ended with a 4-3 victory Wednesday over Nashville, a defeat that also ended the Predators' six-game winning streak.

"It's a good game to build on," said Canucks left wing Markus Naslund. "We won't read too much into it, but at least we got a win."

Vancouver right wing Richard Park scored the game-winner midway through the third period, his first goal in 18 games.

"It was good to contribute," said Park, who hadn't scored since Nov. 16. "It was really big for our hockey team."

With injuries to franchise scoring leader Marian Gaborik and others, the Wild were in danger of falling out of the Northwest race.

Even with Gaborik, the Wild have struggled to score goals with their defense-first mindset. But the 23-year-old Gaborik has five goals in his last seven games as Minnesota has won five of those contests.

The Wild had scored at least four goals in each game of a three-game winning streak before Thursday's loss to the Flames in which Gaborik's three-game goal-scoring streak came to an end.

Despite missing 17 games to injury this season, Gaborik has 12 goals and 12 assists in 21 contests.

The Wild, who have the NHL's best penalty-killing unit, allowed a rare power-play goal Thursday, their second in 37 chances over the last eight games.

Minnesota goaltender Manny Fernandez has a four-game winning streak, and leads the league in both goals-against average (2.01) and save percentage (.932).

"We're making our breaks now," said Wild center and U.S. Olympian Brian Rolston, who has a team-high 17 goals. "When we are all on the same page, we can play with anybody."

STANDINGS: Canucks - 47 points, 3rd place, 1 PB, Northwest Division. Wild - 38 points, 5th place, 10 PB, Northwest Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Canucks - Naslund, 21 goals and 42 points; Todd Bertuzzi and Henrik Sedin, 24 assists; Bertuzzi, 68 PIM. Wild - Rolston, 17 goals and 37 points; Rolston and Pierre-Marc Bouchard, 20 assists; Derek Boogaard, 64 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Canucks - Power play: 18.2 percent (46 for 253), 13th in NHL. Penalty killing: 82 percent (187 for 228), 17th. Wild - Power play: 18.7 percent (39 for 209), 9th (tied). Penalty killing: 89.8 percent (185 for 206), 1st.

GOALTENDERS: Canucks - Alex Auld (13-8-3, 0 SO, 2.91 GAA); Maxime Ouellet (0-0-1, 4.69). Wild - Fernandez (13-5-3, 1, 2.01); Dwayne Roloson (4-12-1, 1, 2.75).

SEASON SERIES: Canucks, 3-1.

LAST MEETING: Nov. 2; Canucks, 2-1. At Vancouver, British Columbia, Auld stopped 31 of 32 shots to lift the Canucks.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Canucks - 7-8-2 on the road; Wild - 10-6-1 at home.

Associated Press
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