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Wild aim for fourth straight against Canucks

by Brian Compton
CANUCKS (36-12-9) at WILD (30-20-5)

TV: SNET-P, Fox Sports-North.

Last 10: Vancouver 7-2-1; Minnesota 8-2-0.

Season Series: This is the fourth of six meetings between the Northwest Division rivals. Minnesota took a 2-1 season-series lead on Jan. 16 when it earned a 4-0 win against the Canucks at the Xcel Energy Center.

Big Story: It's a matchup featuring two of the hottest teams in the Western Conference, as the surging Wild have won nine of their last 11 games and are just one point out of a playoff spot. Minnesota is gunning for its fourth straight win Tuesday night, while the Canucks attempt to increase their seven-point lead atop the conference.

"Guys are playing great defensively," Wild defenseman Cam Barker said. "I think we're keeping it to the outside. Goalies are seeing all the pucks, and obviously the goalies are playing well too."

Team Scope:

Canucks: Another game, another defenseman injured.

Such was the case for Vancouver on Monday night, when Andrew Alberts broke his wrist blocking a shot late in the second period of a 3-2 loss at St. Louis. After the game, Canucks coach Alain Vigneault confirmed Alberts is out indefinitely. Alberts joins fellow injured blueliners Dan Hamhuis, Keith Ballard, Alexander Edler and Lee Sweatt.

"Injuries are part of the game and as a group, you've got to pull together and find ways to win hockey games," Vigneault said Monday night. "Obviously we're getting tested right now, but we're going to fly to Minnesota and have a couple of good meetings tomorrow and come up with a plan that's going to give us an opportunity to win tomorrow night."

Wild: Minnesota made it four straight on home ice and three in a row overall Saturday when it earned a 3-1 victory against the Blues. Seven of Minnesota's last nine wins have come in regulation, which is enormous when you consider just how tight the playoff race is in the Western Conference.

"I think there's another level of confidence right now with our group, figuring out the identity of our team and how we need to play," Minnesota coach Todd Richards said.

Who's Hot: Canucks captain Henrik Sedin has points in four of his last five games. … Wild center Kyle Brodziak has 10 points (2 goals, 8 assists) and a plus-8 rating in his last 11 games, while Cal Clutterbucks has three goals in his last two contests. Niklas Backstrom is 5-2-0 with a 1.42 goals-against average and a .956 save percentage in his last seven starts.

Injury Report: For Vancouver, Hamhuis (concussion) is out indefinitely, Ballard (sprained MCL) will miss 3-4 weeks, Edler (back) is out 8-12 weeks and Sweatt will miss 6-8 weeks with a broken foot. Rick Rypien is also out due to personal reasons. … Wild defenseman Marek Zidlicky (shoulder) is day-to-day, while Marco Scandella (concussion), Guillaume Latendresse (groin), Josh Harding (ACL/MCL) and James Sheppard (knee) are out.

Stat Pack: With Monday's loss, Vancouver fell to 5-11-4 all-time on Valentine's Day. … Minnesota is 24-3-2 when scoring three or more goals and 25-2-4 when scoring first.

Puck Drop: "We're starting to really come together. We're owning our ice. Guys are stepping up for each other and everybody's got each other's back. That's what this team is all about." -- Wild defenseman Greg Zanon
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