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Preview: Wild at Canucks

Minnesota starts backup goalie Darcy Kuemper; Sven Baertschi returns for Vancouver

by Kevin Woodley / NHL.com Correspondent

WILD (11-7-3) at CANUCKS (9-11-2)

10 p.m. ET; SNP, FS-N, NHL.TV

 

Wild team scope

Goalie Darcy Kuemper will make something of a surprise start ahead of Devan Dubnyk, who is third in the NHL with a .946 save percentage, in the Minnesota Wild's first of four games in Canada. Kuemper is 2-1-1 with a .908 save percentage in four starts; he will be making his second start in the past eight games and his first since making 29 saves in a 3-2 overtime loss against the Dallas Stars on Nov. 21. "Nothing [changes]," center Erik Haula said of Kuemper starting. "They are both great goalies, and Darcy has shown over the years here that he can jump in there and do a great job. They are both really vocal in the net, and we are really familiar with both goalies, so no problem with that." The Wild have earned at least a point in four straight games (2-0-2) and have scored 12 goals in their past three; that's three goals more than they had in their previous six games combined. Minnesota, which started a five-game road trip with a 4-3 shootout loss to the St. Louis Blues on Saturday, also leads the NHL in average goals-against per game (1.95). The key, said top-line forward Charlie Coyle, was not abandoning their defensive play to chase goals during the scoring slump. "Our tight structure in the defensive zone translates into offensive chances and opportunities and eventually goals," Coyle said.

 

Canucks team scope

The Vancouver Canucks won't have top defenseman Alexander Edler, who broke a finger blocking a shot on Saturday against the Colorado Avalanche. But they should get some scoring help with the return of left wing Sven Baertschi. He had his first three-point game of his NHL career against the Arizona Coyotes on Nov. 23 but missed the next two games with a foot injury. Playing with Bo Horvat, who leads the Canucks with 15 points, and veteran Alexandre Burrows, Baertschi was a big part of what has been Vancouver's best line of late. "The last eight, nine games our line has been really good," said Baertschi. With Edler out 4-6 weeks after surgery on Monday and regular top-pair partner Christopher Tanev out at least one more week with a lower-body injury, the Canucks will juggle their pairs and are counting on the forwards to help what is now the youngest defense in the NHL, with 22-year-old rookie Troy Stecher on the top pair with Luca Sbisa, 26. "Obviously, our D is young, so our forwards are going to have to do a little more coming back and we are going to have to rely on our goaltending a little," coach Willie Desjardins said. Vancouver has alternated wins and losses the past 10 games after a 3-2 shootout win in Colorado. "We need to put a string together," defenseman Erik Gudbranson said.

 

Wild projected lineup

Zach Parise -- Eric Staal -- Charlie Coyle

Mikael Granlund -- Mikko Koivu -- Jason Zucker

Nino Niederreiter -- Erik Haula -- Jason Pominville

Tyler Graovac -- Zack Mitchell -- Chris Stewart

Ryan Suter -- Jared Spurgeon

Jonas Brodin -- Matt Dumba

Marco Scandella -- Nate Prosser

Darcy Kuemper

Devan Dubnyk

Scratched: Gustav Olofsson

Injured: Zac Dalpe (knee), Christian Folin (MCL sprain)

 

Canucks projected lineup

Daniel Sedin -- Henrik Sedin -- Brandon Sutter

Sven Baertschi -- Bo Horvat -- Alexandre Burrows

Markus Granlund -- Michael Chaput -- Loui Eriksson

Jack Skille -- Brendan Gaunce -- Jayson Megna

Luca Sbisa -- Troy Stecher

Ben Hutton -- Erik Gudbranson

Nikita Tryamkin -- Philip Larsen

Ryan Miller

Jacob Markstrom

Scratched: Alex Biega, Joseph Labate

Injured: Alexander Edler (fractured finger), Derek Dorsett (shoulder), Jannik Hansen (fractured rib), Anton Rodin (knee), Christopher Tanev (lower body)

 

Status report

The Canucks recalled Biega from a conditioning assignment with Utica in the American Hockey League and sent forward Alex Grenier to Utica. Biega, 28, played his only NHL game this season as a forward after playing 51 for the Canucks last season.

 

Who's hot

Coyle has scored in consecutive games and has three goals and an assist during a three-game point streak. Koivu has two goals and three assists during a four-game streak. … Horvat has two goals and four assists during a four-game point streak and leads the Canucks with seven goals.

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