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Struggling Wild head to Vancouver

by Pete Jensen
WILD (21-13-6) at CANUCKS (24-13-3)


Last 10: Minnesota 1-6-3; Vancouver 6-3-1.

Season Series: Wednesday's clash at Rogers Arena marks the fourth of six meetings between these division rivals. Vancouver has taken two of the first three head-to-head matchups this season with Minnesota. Their last meeting also came in Western Canada, as Roberto Luongo stopped all 33 shots to help the Canucks blank the Wild, 4-0, on Dec. 19.

Big Story: The top two teams in the Northwest division square off as the Wild look to even the season series with the Canucks. Vancouver, which holds a three-point lead on Minnesota for the division lead with the same number of games played (40), is fresh off a 3-2 shootout loss to the San Jose Sharks on Monday. The Wild, meanwhile, dropped their final game of the calendar year in a 4-2 home loss Saturday at the hands of the Phoenix Coyotes. 

Team Scope:

Wild: The Wild have lost nine of their last ten games overall, and enter a difficult stretch beginning Wednesday at Vancouver that sees them play six of their next seven games away from Xcel Energy Center. After an important divisional victory over the Edmonton Oilers last Thursday to snap an eight-game winless skid, the Wild allowed three unanswered goals to lose the momentum on home ice Saturday against the Coyotes.

Matt Cullen's conversion on a third period penalty shot gave Minnesota a jolt of positive energy, but a late empty-netter by Phoenix’ Ray Whitney sealed another excruciating loss for the Wild.

"Emotional or not, we have to come to the rink and be ready to go and play a certain way," coach Mike Yeo told the Associated Press. "We don't have a choice. We're not going to go in and just drop our sticks and win hockey games."

Canucks: After outscoring its opponents 27-15 during a stretch of six wins in seven games, Vancouver has taken a step back with only three goals in consecutive losses to the Kings and Sharks. The Canucks sport the League's best power-play conversion percentage (23.9), but are only two for their last 21 on the man advantage in their last six games.

Luongo did his part on Monday at Rogers Arena, stopping 33 of 35 shots to help the Canucks earn a point, but San Jose blanked Vancouver in the shootout to hand Alain Vigneault's team consecutive losses for the first time since mid-December.

"We weren't good enough," Henrik Sedin told the AP. "We got our chance on the power play, but we weren't sharp enough and didn't create enough chances to score. They played well. But still, I thought we had chances to maybe get a few more shots to the net and we were passing up opportunities to shoot."

Who’s Hot: Pierre-Marc Bouchard, who scored in the second period of Minnesota's loss to Phoenix on New Year's Eve, has tallied three goals in his last four games. … Daniel Sedin, despite seeing his four-game point streak come to an end against the Sharks, has recorded four goals and an assist with a plus-4 rating in his last five games.

Injury Report: Minnesota has activated Devin Setoguchi (lower body) off injured reserve, as the forward will likely be available Wednesday in Vancouver. Casey Wellman (upper body) was also activated off IR for the Wild. Guillaume Latendresse (concussion) and Jarod Palmer (upper body) remain on IR and are expected to miss the game for Minnesota, while Clayton Stoner (groin) made the trip to Vancouver and could be available for the Wild this week. … David Booth (knee) and Aaron Rome (broken thumb) are on IR and will miss Wednesday's game for the Canucks.

Stat Pack: Cody Hodgson notched a goal and an assist in Monday's shootout loss to San Jose, extending his home point streak to six games. Hodgson has put together the longest point streak in home games by a Vancouver rookie since Dixon Ward had a stretch of six straight games with at least a point in November of 1992.

Puck Drop: "Our execution may be a tad off and when you're a tad off, with the quality of goaltending and quality of penalty killing in this League is challenging," Vigneault said.

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