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Wild Warmup: Minnesota vs. Vancouver

Zucker a game-time decision as Wild returns home for Sunday matinee against Canucks

by Dan Myers @mnwildscribe /
The essentials

Who: Vancouver Canucks (24-17-4) at Minnesota Wild (20-18-6)

Puck drop: 3:08 p.m. CT

Watch: FOX Sports North, FOX Sports App

Listen: KFAN FM 100.3, Wild Radio NetworkWild NHL App

Follow: @mnwild, @mnwildscribe; GameCenter

The Wild Warmup is presented by Bryant Heating and Cooling

ST. PAUL -- With six games remaining before the All-Star break, the Wild will try and get perhaps its most important stretch of the season so far off on the right track when it hosts the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday.

After a 6-3 win on Saturday in Buffalo, the Canucks moved into the second wild card spot in the Western Conference, six points clear of Minnesota.

The Wild also has a game in hand, which means a regulation victory could, in theory, put Minnesota within two points of a playoff spot. A loss would push the Wild even further behind in a crowded conference race.

"I don't like to use the word run or say, 'hey, you gotta win five in a row or six in row,' because that seems really difficult when you just talk about it, so let's win [Sunday]," said Wild coach Bruce Boudreau. "And if you win [Sunday] and have success [Sunday], maybe it'll roll into Pittsburgh and you go in and surprise them and all of a sudden you're feeling good about yourself and then you come back. 

"But you take it one at a time, it adds up just as quickly as saying five or six in a row."

Video: Rink Report: Wild vs Canucks

The Wild is just 2-3-1 in six games since returning from the Christmas break, but has left points on the table during that stretch. 

Last Sunday, Minnesota lost in a seven-round shootout to the Calgary Flames. In their rematch in Calgary on Thursday, the Flames won 2-1 despite the fact the Wild peppered the opposing net with 43 shots on goal. 

Calgary entered the day Saturday in the top wild card position. 

Minnesota could be getting offensive reinforcements back in the form of forward Jason Zucker, who is a game-time decision after missing the past 10 games following surgery to repair a fractured right leg. 

Video: Zucker on injury recovery

Zucker has 12 goals and 24 points and is third on the team with four power-play goals, an area of the game Minnesota has really struggled since losing Zucker last month. 

"I think when he was here our power play was at 20 percent or above and it's sort of taken a little bit of a nose dive since then," Boudreau said.

In addition to Zucker, defenseman Greg Pateryn and goaltender Devan Dubnyk are also game-time decisions, although Dubnyk is expected to start. He did not accompany the team on it's one-game trip to Calgary as he tended to a family medical issue.

Pateryn has been cleared to play and took part in pre-game warmups in Calgary. He hasn't played a game this season following core muscle surgery. 

Vancouver comes to town in the midst of a five-game road trip that began in Tampa on Tuesday and continued to Fort Lauderdale on Thursday before shifting north to Buffalo on Saturday. 

Following Sunday's game, the Canucks will play in Winnipeg on Tuesday then head home for two games ahead of their bye week into the All-Star break.

Elias Pettersson leads the club with 20 goals and 47 points this season. Burnsville native Brock Boeser scored twice in Buffalo and has 16 goals and 43 points. 

Jacob Markstrom made the start against the Sabres, which means Thatcher Demko is likely to draw in on Sunday. Demko is 8-5-1 in 15 games (14 starts) this season with a 3.20 goals-against average and a .903 save percentage.

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