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League-leading Canucks drop in on Wild

by Sergei J. Feldman /
CANUCKS (29-9-6) at WILD (21-18-5)


Last 10 --
Vancouver 8-1-1; Minnesota 5-4-1

Season series --
This is the third of six matchups between the two Northwest Division foes. Minnesota got the better of Vancouver in the first meeting with a convincing 6-2 win, while Vancouver responded three nights later with an equally dominant 5-1 victory.

Big story --
The Canucks enter the game as the best team in the Western Conference and overall NHL standings, and look to begin another winning streak against Minnesota, which closes out a short, two-game stint at home before ending January with a four-game road trip.

Team scope:

Canucks --
After earning at least a point in 17 consecutive games (14-0-3), the best team in hockey was bested by the host New York Rangers, 1-0 on Thursday. The Canucks responded quickly, however, with a 4-2 road win over one of the East's best in the Washington Capitals. With two games left on a five-game road trip, the Canucks can extend their division lead against the Wild and maintain their standing atop the NHL.

Goalie Roberto Luongo on the bounce-back effort: "We're not going to win every game, but the important thing is the way you respond. It wasn't an easy situation -- back-to-back games and coming in and playing against a good team like the Capitals."

Wild -- It was only a little while ago that the Wild were one of the hottest teams in hockey, but after four consecutive wins to start 2011, they've dropped their last three games and haven't scored more than one goal in either game. They haven't seen better luck defensively, either, as they've allowed at least four goals in each of the three defeats.

Coach Todd Richards offered the following after their recent 4-1 loss to the Avalanche: "It's not because of lack of effort or caring. We created chances and that's what you want to do. We need either that extra effort to finish or we need a fortuitous bounce."

Who’s hot -- The third-leading goal scorer in the NHL has been taking care of business offensively for the Canucks, as Daniel Sedin has collected 7 points in his past five games. The only game in which he was held off the score sheet was against the Rangers in a shutout defeat. For the Wild, meanwhile, Mikko Koivu's 4 points in his past five games has put him in a tie with teammate Martin Havlat for the team scoring lead with 38 points.

Injury report --
Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom has been dealing with a hip injury but practiced with the team Saturday and is expected to be healthy enough against the Canucks, who will bring a healthy lineup into the game.

Stat pack --
At 10-11-2, the Wild are one of two Western Conference teams with a home record below .500 (Edmonton, 7-11-3).

Puck drop --
Vancouver will look to remain as the only team with under 10 regulation losses this season.

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