Roberto Luongo was key to the Vancouver Canucks' November surge, but the injured goaltender's absence is likely contributing to their recent swoon.
The Canucks look to prevent a fifth consecutive loss for the first time in almost three years on Friday night, when they aim for a third straight win over the Minnesota Wild at the Xcel Energy Center.
Vancouver (14-10-2) went 8-0-2 from Nov. 4-24 with Luongo winning five of seven starts as he compiled a 0.97 goals-against average.
But the captain went down with a strained groin in a Nov. 22 win at Pittsburgh, and the Canucks have gone 1-4-0 without him - a stretch capped by four consecutive losses including a 6-5 defeat to Detroit on Thursday.
Curtis Sanford was replaced by rookie Cory Schneider after surrendering three tallies during a 2:45 span early in the final period.
"We can't be happy about the way we started the third period," said defenseman Sami Salo after Vancouver was unable to move past idle Minnesota (15-8-1) for the Northwest Division lead.
Of greater concern for the Canucks, though, has been their shaky defense. Sanford and Schneider have conceded 16 goals over the last four games after Vancouver had limited opponents to three tallies or fewer in 14 of the 15 games before this skid.
The Canucks, who have dropped the first three contests on their season-high seven-game road trip, last suffered five straight defeats during an 0-4-1 stretch from March 5-14, 2006.
Vancouver hopes to avoid matching that while trying to win its third straight over Minnesota. Luongo helped the Canucks beat the Wild 2-0 at home on Nov. 2, and Sanford made 26 saves in a 3-2 road win on Nov. 20.
Schneider hasn't faced the Wild, but Sanford is 4-2-0 with a shutout and a 2.54 GAA in eight career games versus Minnesota. The Wild have split the first two contests of its current three-game homestand behind contrasting performances.
After allowing a season-high six goals on Monday in a loss to Colorado, the Wild bounced back on Wednesday when Niklas Backstrom made 22 saves en route to his third shutout of the season in a 4-0 victory over St. Louis.
"I think we learned our lesson Monday that we're not going to get anything for free in this league," said Backstrom, who has a 2.27 GAA.
Though Backstrom lost both matchups against the Canucks last month, he is 7-3-3 with a 2.10 GAA in 14 career meetings.
Minnesota has won four of its last six games, thanks in part to a resurgent offense that has scored 26 goals and converted 40.6 percent (13-for-32) of its power-play opportunities in that span.
Captain Mikko Koivu has collected 13 of his team-leading 28 points over the last nine contests, and has four goals and six assists during a career-high six-game point streak. He also has five goals and eight assists in his last 15 games versus the Canucks.
Looking to challenge Backstrom will be twins Henrik and Daniel Sedin, who lead Vancouver with 25 points apiece. Henrik has five goals and 32 points in 46 career games, while Daniel has 11 goals and 29 points in 44 lifetime contests versus the Wild.
Vancouver has won four of its last six in Minnesota.