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Clendening in for Canucks; Wild's Suter questionable

by Kevin Woodley

WILD (22-20-6) at CANUCKS (27-17-3)

TV: FS-N, FS-WI, SNP

VANCOUVER -- New Vancouver Canucks defenseman Adam Clendening hasn't had time to unpack after being acquired in a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks late Thursday and traveling all day Friday. But he is ready to make his Canucks debut Sunday.

Clendening, who was traded for defenseman prospect Gustav Forsling, will play against the Minnesota Wild.

"I still haven't even unpacked a suitcase, so it's a bit of a whirlwind," Clendening said after practice Saturday. "But it's been fun."

Clendening is expected to start on the third pairing with Luca Sbisa, taking the place of Yannick Weber, who scored in a 5-2 win against the Buffalo Sabres on Friday. The 22-year-old defenseman will also see second-unit power play time with Dan Hamhuis.

Clendening had a goal and assist in four games with the Blackhawks, and 13 points in 38 games in the American Hockey League with the Rockford IceHogs, who he led in scoring last season with 12 goals and 59 points in 74 games.

The Canucks hope that offense translates in the NHL.

"He's a puck moving D-man who sounds like he's got offensive upside," Vancouver coach Willie Desjardins said. "He's good on the offensive blue line, I think he's patient with the puck, lots of things that lends for us to maybe create a little bit more off our attack."

Clendening is eager for that chance after playing in the AHL for parts of three seasons with a deep Blackhawks organization.

"It was a little bit of a surprise," Clendening said of the trade. "I didn't expect that to happen, but it's a tough team to crack, it's a good lineup and they are Stanley Cup contenders, so they [have] a good back end and a lot of guys in the minors that are very good as well."

Clendening played one of his four games this season with Chicago in Vancouver on Nov. 23, and was responsible for one of three goals scored by Canucks forward Jannik Hansen.

"I gave him his second one, that was the game-winner," Clendening said. "He was the first guy to actually to say 'Hi' to me so that was kind of cool; didn't rub it in my face either, so that's kind of nice."

Clendening might not be the only rookie playing Sunday.

Minnesota defenseman Ryan Suter did not practice Saturday and might not play because of an unspecified lower-body injury. First-year Wild defenseman Christian Folin would take Suter's place alongside Jonas Brodin.

Suter leads the NHL in average ice time at 29:29 and is fifth in scoring for the Wild with 25 points in 44 games. He was injured against the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday but finished that game and played against the Calgary Flames on Thursday, well below his usual ice time at 23:39.

"Suter is [off for] maintenance, but if there is a point where we feel that he is not ready or putting himself in a bad spot as far as potentially hurting himself worse, then he wouldn't play," Wild coach Mike Yeo said after practice. "We'll make that decision [Sunday]."

Minnesota is seven points behind the Canucks and seven behind the Flames for the second Western Conference wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"We know we've got a very deep hole and a lot of teams ahead of us," Yeo said. "Our task is tough, but there is not one guy in the room that will not put their head down and go for it with everything we got."

Here are the projected lineups:

WILD

Zach Parise - Mikael Granlund - Thomas Vanek

Jason Zucker - Mikko Koivu - Jason Pominville

Ryan Carter - Charlie Coyle - Nino Niederreiter

Matt Cooke - Erik Haula - Kyle Brodziak

Ryan Suter / Christian Folin - Jonas Brodin

Marco Scandella - Jared Spurgeon

Nate Prosser - Matt Dumba

Devan Dubnyk

Niklas Backstrom

Scratched: Christian Folin or Ryan Suter

Injured: Keith Ballard (upper body), Justin Fontaine (lower body)

CANUCKS

Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Radim Vrbata

Chris Higgins - Linden Vey - Alexandre Burrows

Shawn Matthias - Nick Bonino - Zack Kassian

Derek Dorsett - Bo Horvat - Jannik Hansen

Alexander Edler - Christopher Tanev

Dan HamhuisFrank Corrado

Luca SbisaAdam Clendening

Ryan Miller

Eddie Lack

Scratched: Ryan Stanton, Yannick Weber, Ronalds Kenins

Injured: Kevin Bieksa (broken hand), Brad Richardson (lower body)

Status report: Dorsett returned to practice Saturday for the first time since getting hit high by Anaheim Ducks forward Ryan Kesler on Tuesday. Dorsett said he wasn't sure if he'd return Sunday, but Desjardins was more optimistic the fourth-line energy forward and penalty killer will play. "I would think so," Desjardins said. "Nice to see him in full contact, full gear and from what I can tell he didn't have any issues so that was a good sign." … Fontaine will miss the game with a lower-body injury, so Haula returns to the lineup after being a healthy scratch the past two games.

Who's hot: Parise scored in a 1-0 win against the Flames and has six goals in his past six games.

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