After a relaxing pair of game-free days, the Wild is back at it tonight against longtime rival, the Vancouver Canucks.
The ol’ Northwest Division foe is back in town tonight for the third and final meeting this season between these two teams. Minnesota has won both previous contests this season — both of which were settled in the shootout.
Despite the fact that Vancouver and Minnesota are no longer in the same division, Head Coach Mike Yeo said that doesn’t diminish the history between the two.
“I don’t look at them as any lesser of a team,” Yeo said of the Canucks struggles this season. “I know that they still have skill. I know that they’re going to play a very strong team game. I know that they’re going to play a very hard game and I still have an awful lot of respect for that opponent.”
Matt Moulson will be party to the rivalry for the first time this evening. He noted that any time you’re part of a rivalry game, it’s a special setting and he expects a fun atmosphere tonight.
Since becoming a member of the Wild on Trade Deadline Day, Moulson has really started to find his groove of late. Working alongside Mikko Koivu and, once again, Charlie Coyle, Moulson said that finding his game here is simply a matter of getting to know the tendencies of his new teammates and vice versa.
“You play more and more with the same guys and you get to know their tendencies a little better,” Moulson said. “When you have that chemistry where you know what the guy is going to do before the other team, I think you give yourself that split second advantage. It’s something I feel like we’re starting to develop over the last couple games here. Hopefully they’re getting to know me as well as I’m getting to know them. I feel like it’s coming.”
In the last four games, Moulson has three goals and three assists for six points. Two of those goals were game-winners including an OT winner Sunday night in Detroit. He also registered an assist Sunday for his second multipoint game with the Wild — the first came against his former team, the Islanders, on a three-point effort which included two goals.
Back to tonight, if you haven’t heard, Darcy Kuemper is making the start in net as the Wild looks to continue to solidify its hold on a Wild Card spot while the Canucks are hoping to steal any points they can, sitting outside the Playoff Picture by six points at the moment.
“We want to come in, we want to be sharp, we want to be on our game,” Yeo said. “But we also better be ready to go. When you’re facing a desperate opponent — and obviously I think they’re looking at this as a game that they need — then we better be ready to match that desperation tonight.”
When asked about the difference between this year’s stretch to the playoffs and last year’s, Yeo noted the shift in mood. Last year it was about holding onto a spot, this year it’s about getting in and making noise.
“The shift is in mindset is that we’re working towards something right now as opposed to trying to hang onto something,” Yeo said. “We know that there’s still work to be done and we know that it’s still going to be a challenge to make the playoffs, but, that said, we believe that we will make the playoffs and we believe that we have a team that can do something in the playoffs. Our focus is on making sure that when we get there, our game is ready to go.”
Wild Honors Youth Hockey State Champions
Tonight the Wild will honor 2014 Minnesota Hockey Youth state champions in the Youth, Girls and Junior Gold levels. Select members of championship teams will be on the ice to be recognized during the first intermission.
Teams include: Farmington (12U B), Mound Westonka - Delano (12U A), Edina (14U B), Osseo Maple Grove Gold (14U A), Osseo-Maple Grove (19U B), White Bear Lake (Peewee B), Highland Central (Peewee A), Edina (Peewee AA), Wayzata Navy (Bantam B), Highland Central (Bantam A), Grand Rapids (Bantam AA), Lakeville (Junior Gold 16 A), Edina White (Junior Gold B) and Wayzata (Junior Gold A).
As part of the partnership, Blue Cross has donated more than 275 tickets to the game to members of the championship teams. In addition, the first 5,000 fans 18 and under attending the game will receive a drawstring bag presented by Blue Cross.