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Wild stand in way as Canucks go for eight in a row

by Davis Harper

CANUCKS (20-10-5) at WILD (19-11-5)


Last 10: Vancouver 8-1-1; Minnesota 4-5-1

Season series: This is the first of three games between these one-time Northwest Division rivals. The Vancouver Canucks won the first two games in 2012-13, but the Minnesota Wild evened the series with a home-and-home sweep in March.

Big story: The state of hockey will entertain the NHL's hottest team when Vancouver travels to Minnesota. The Canucks are undefeated in December, running their streak to seven straight wins with a 6-2 victory over the Boston Bruins on Saturday night.

Xcel Energy Center is no easy place to play, though, and the Wild (13-2-2 at home) are looking to win their fourth straight on home ice.

Team scope:

Canucks: Vancouver's recent run is due largely to a stingy defense. The Canucks have allowed eight goals in seven games and improved their League-best penalty kill to 90.2 percent by killing all 20 penalties faced over that stretch. Goaltenders Eddie Lack and Roberto Luongo reeled off back-to-back shutouts this past week, against the Carolina Hurricanes and Edmonton Oilers.

Saturday against Boston, which marked the Bruins' first trip to Rogers Arena since Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, proved the Canucks are not content to rest on these accomplishments. After Jannik Hansen gave Vancouver an early lead, Boston tied the game 1-1 early in the second. An irate John Tortorella called a timeout and tore into his team. The Canucks responded, maybe more to their coach than the opposition, with five straight goals. The Bruins didn't scratch the score sheet again until the game was well out of reach.

"That was 10 out of 10," forward David Booth said. "He was fired up there and it got the guys going. We're professionals. Sometimes you don't need it and sometimes you do. That was a turning point for us and changed the outcome."

Wild: If Minnesota hopes to challenge Vancouver, the Wild must get their offense back on track. The Wild scored three regulation goals on a recent three-game road trip, dropping the first two games to the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks.

In Minnesota's final game, however, the defense earned its top-five League rankings for shots-allowed and goals-allowed per game, holding the Colorado Avalanche to just one goal on 27 shots. Nino Niederreiter scored to tie it with 3:53 left in regulation, and the Wild prevailed in the shootout.

"Sometimes you hit those streaks where you don't get that offense as much," forward Mikko Koivu said. "A lot of times that happens on the road. Obviously we played some good teams. Tonight one goal and the shootout got us the win. We just have to stick with it."

Who's hot: Luongo is 5-0-0 with a 1.19 goals-against average during the streak. He has three shutouts in his past six starts against Minnesota. … Despite the recent hiccups, the Wild are still led from the back. Josh Harding has won four of five and leads the League with a 1.49 goals-against average.

Injury report: For Vancouver, forward Jordan Schroeder (sprained ankle), wing Alexandre Burrows (broken jaw) and defenseman Alexander Edler (lower body) are on injured reserve. … Minnesota center Mikael Granlund (concussion) has been on injured reserve since Nov. 27, but he practiced with the team Monday and will join them on their eastern road trip later this week.

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