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Wild visit Canucks looking to extend streak to four

by John Kreiser

WILD (32-21-7) at CANUCKS (28-24-9)


Last 10: Minnesota 6-2-2; Vancouver 2-8-0

Season series: The Minnesota Wild pay their only visit of the season to Rogers Arena looking for their fourth consecutive victory against the Vancouver Canucks, including a 3-2 shootout victory by the Wild on Dec. 17.

Big story: The teams are separated by six points in the race for wild-card berths in the Western Conference, but the gap seems bigger. The Wild own the first of the two spots with 71 points and are five points ahead of the Dallas Stars, who own the second one. The Canucks are one point behind the Stars but have lost seven of their past eight games.

Team Scope:

Wild: Minnesota comes to the Pacific Northwest after an antiseptic 3-0 victory against the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday night. Darcy Kuemper made 21 saves to earn his second shutout of the season.

"We did a real good job, we were aware of the situation, and everyone was focused tonight," Kuemper said. "It was just a solid team game."

It was the Wild's first game after the break for the 2014 Sochi Olympics, and Kuemper said a week of practice helped Minnesota get back to basics.

"We had seven days of practice," he said. "You just use the first two [practices] to get the fundamentals back, and then you worry about the next game. I stuck to my game, and obviously, the team played great in front of me."

The Wild have won three in a row.

Canucks: The topic after practice Thursday wasn't the 1-0 victory against the St. Louis Blues the night before, a win that ended Vancouver's seven-game pre-Olympic losing streak. Instead, center Ryan Kesler was front and center, denying reports that he had asked to be traded.

"Completely false," Kesler said of the media reports. He later added, "I am a Canuck and I am happy to be here."

The good news for the Canucks at practice was that Kesler was fully involved after sitting out the win against St. Louis with an injured left hand sustained while playing for the United States during the Olympics. Kesler and defenseman Christopher Tanev (hand) will play Friday.

Who's hot: Kuemper is 9-2-2 in his past 13 starts. Dany Heatley scored in Edmonton and has three goals and three assists during a six-game point streak. … Eddie Lack has a 2.11 goals-against average in his first NHL season after blanking the Blues on Wednesday.

Injury report: The Wild are missing goaltenders Josh Harding (illness) and Niklas Backstrom (lower body), as well as center Mikko Koivu (ankle), forward Jason Zucker (leg) and defenseman Marco Scandella (knee). Koivu and Scandella are close to returning. … The Canucks are still without defensemen Yannick Weber (undisclosed) and Andrew Alberts (concussion), as well as center Mike Santorelli (shoulder).

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