WILD (1-5-0) at CANUCKS (2-4-0)
Season series --
These Northwest Division rivals face off for the first of six times this season. Vancouver went 5-0-1 against Minnesota last season, with Henrik Sedin
netting the overtime goal in a 2-1 win in the most recent meeting on March 31.
Big Story --
A pair of struggling teams, each of which needs to come out of this game with two points, meet at GM Place in Vancouver. The Canucks lost their first three, then won two in a row before falling in Calgary on Friday. The Wild have dropped four straight to land in the Western Conference basement.
This marks the end of a five-game road trip for Minnesota in which virtually nothing has gone right. They've been outscored 18-9 over the first four games, including Friday's 5-2 defeat at Edmonton in which the Wild closed 2-0 and 3-1 deficits down to a single goal before the Oilers added a pair of insurance goals in the third period.
"I don't think this trip could have gone any worse at this point," goalie Josh Harding
said. "It's disappointing battling back and letting up another one. We have to find a way to win and right now we just keep finding ways to lose."
Canucks -- Roberto Luongo
's struggles continued against the Flames, as he was pulled after giving up five goals in two periods of play. Vancouver's captain has uncharacteristic stats -- a 3.87 goals-against average and an .860 save percentage. His teammates insist the Canucks' poor start is hardly the goaltender's fault.
"No one in here is blaming Luongo," forward Ryan Kesler
said. "He's a great goaltender and we gave up too many Grade A chances."
Who's Hot -- Henrik Sedin
had two assists in the Canucks' loss Friday for his third consecutive multi-point game. Mikael Samuelsson
's power-play goal gave him at least one point in four straight.
Andrew Brunette was the bright spot in the latest Wild defeat, as he scored his team-leading fifth goal and third power-play goal of the season.
Injury Report --
Both teams have dealt with numerous injuries already this season.
For Minnesota, forward Martin Havlat is day-to-day with a pulled groin muscle. Forward Petr Sykora is also out with a groin injury, forward Cal Clutterbuck
is on injured reserve with a high-ankle sprain and forward Pierre-Marc Bouchard
was recently diagnosed with a concussion and has played only one game this season.
On the Vancouver side, forward Daniel Sedin
is likely to miss at least four weeks with a broken foot and defenseman Sami Salo
has a sprained MCL that will sideline him four-to-six weeks. Defenseman Mathieu Schneider and forward Pavol Demitra have yet to play this season. Schneider (shoulder) hopes to be back around the end of the month, but Demitra is battling inflammation of his rotator cuff tendon which is delaying his return from offseason shoulder surgery.
Stat Pack --
Vancouver's special teams are operating at opposite ends of efficiency. Its power-play unit ranks first in the League at a whopping 37.5 percent conversion rate, but the penalty-killing unit has succeeded just 70.4 percent of the time, sixth-worst among 30 teams.
Minnesota, to its credit, ranks in the top 10 in both power play (27.6 percent, 7th) and penalty kill (87 percent, 4th).
Puck Drop --
Both teams should come out desperate, which will hopefully make for an entertaining hockey game.
-- Brian Hunter, NHL.com