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Reeling Wild set to host Canucks

by Frank Mentesana
CANUCKS (43-20-8) at WILD (29-32-10)

: SNET-P (HD), FS-N (HD), FS-WI (HD)

Last 10: Vancouver 4-4-2; Minnesota 2-7-1.

Season Series: This is the sixth and final matchup between these Northwest Division rivals. The Canucks have dominated the season series, winning all three games at home -- one in overtime -- and splitting the two games in Minnesota to take four of the first five meetings overall. Devin Setoguchi is tops on the Wild with four points, while Vancouver forward Daniel Sedin leads players from both squads with 3 goals, 7 assists and 10 points. Roberto Luongo, who could be in goal after Cory Schneider started Vancouver's last game on Saturday, has posted a shutout in each of his two outings against the Wild this season.

Big Story: Firmly in command of the Northwest, the Canucks still hope to overtake St. Louis for the top spot in the Western Conference. Vancouver, which plays its first road game of the month Monday in Minnesota, trails the Blues by six points, but has two games in hand. If the Canucks are to make a run at the No. 1 seed, they'll need to pick up their play. They just finished a season-high seven-game homestand with only their third win in nine games. The Canucks, who were 3-4-0 on the homestand, avoided dropping three straight games in regulation for the first time all season with a one-goal win over League-worst Columbus on Saturday night.
The Wild, who actually sat atop the NHL standings earlier this season, won't be playing this spring as they currently rank 13th in the West and 28th in the League. They have yet to earn a point on their current five-game homestand, losing three straight. 

Team Scope:

Canucks: For the second consecutive game, Vancouver went 2-for-3 on the power play after struggling through a 1-for-24 stretch. Daniel Sedin scored the second of his two goals with the man-advantage late in the third period and it turned out to be the game-winner in a 4-3 win against the Blue Jackets. Henrik Sedin chipped in with two assists, David Booth had Vancouver's first goal and Alex Edler notched a goal -- a remarkable coast-to-coast solo effort -- and an assist.

The Canucks also got 33 saves from backup Cory Schneider, who was making his second start in four games with Luongo struggling of late. Since Luongo allowed three goals on seven shots in just over five minutes of work on March 3, he has surrendered 13 goals in losing three consecutive starts. However, Schneider's play has been stellar, as he improved to 9-1-1 since late-December by stopping 17 of 18 shots in the third period in what wound up being Vancouver's 21st one-goal victory.

"I'm happy we won, but it shouldn't have been that close," said Daniel, who hadn’t found the back of the net in his previous nine contests. "We didn't play that good tonight, but we were able to squeeze out a win anyways. We gave them a lot of chances. We need to tighten up. We can't keep giving up over 30 shots. That is unacceptable."

The Canucks begin their final road trip of the season Monday with Minnesota as the first of four stops. After this trip, they will play six of their final seven games at Rogers Arena, where they are 21-10-4.

Wild: Minnesota dropped to 1-7-1 in its last nine after falling to Carolina Saturday at the Xcel Energy Center. The Wild scored three times on their first 12 shots to build a 3-1 lead in the second period, but were shut down the rest of the way by Brian Boucher. The Hurricanes cut the deficit to one with a goal late in the second, and then put three pucks past Matt Hackett in the third to claim a 5-3 victory.

Minnesota now has the fourth fewest wins in the League when leading after two periods (18-3-3) and the fourth-worst winning percentage (.750).

"The message is pretty simple," said coach Mike Yeo, obviously frustrated in his post-game press conference. "We all have to hate losing a lot more than we do. You can never accept this. I don't care who we've got out of the lineup, you cannot accept this. … We're in hell. It's not fun."

Who's Hot: Vancouver forward Chris Higgins extended his points streak to five games (1-5-6) with an assist on Booth's goal in Saturday’s win. The assist was his 25th of the season, matching a career high. … Wild center Kyle Brodziak tallied a goal and two assists Saturday, posting the fourth three-point game of his career. He now has 37 points on the season, matching a career high that he set in 2010-11. Erik Christensen also scored Saturday and has three goals in as many games.
Injury Report: Vancouver center Manny Malhotra (personal) has missed the last two games, but traveled with the team Sunday to Minnesota. The Canucks will still be without defenseman Keith Ballard (concussion) and forwards Andrew Ebbett (collarbone surgery), Aaron Volpatti (shoulder surgery) and Steve Pinizzotto (shoulder surgery). … Part of the Wild's downfall this season can be attributed to injuries, though a couple of key players are close to coming back. Captain Mikko Koivu (shoulder) has been practicing with the team and is now just day-to-day. Goalie Niklas Backstrom (groin) has also begun to practice and is nearing a return. Justin Falk (leg) hasn’t played since March 4 and Matt Kassian (groin) sat out the loss to Carolina, while Guillaume Latendresse (concussion), Pierre-Marc Bouchard (concussion), Mike Lundin (lower body) and Jarod Palmer (upper body) remain on injured reserve.
Stat Pack: With a pair of tallies against Columbus, Daniel Sedin reached the 30-goal plateau for the fourth time in his career. He also moved into second place in franchise history with 103 power-play goals, 11 shy of the franchise record held by Markus Naslund. … The Canucks have the second-best road record in the League at 22-10-4. … The Wild, who are 15-15-4 in the State of Hockey, have tallied a League-worst 80 goals in 34 home games. Overall, they are averaging the fewest goals per game (2.06) in the NHL.

Puck Drop: There was a great deal of frustration from the Minnesota locker room after blowing a two-goal lead in Saturday's home loss to the Hurricanes.
"We just gave it away, threw it away in the third," Brodziak said. "The desperation level wasn't at the level it needed to be. We turned too many pucks over. We just weren't swarming them like we were in the first two periods. … Everyone in here is sick of losing. It's not a fun feeling, getting booed in your own rink. We know we deserve it and we've got to find a way give fans something to cheer about."

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