The Vancouver Canucks (28-24-9) will look to string together back-to-back wins for the first time in over a month tonight when they host the Minnesota Wild (32-21-7) at Rogers Arena.
Wednesday's win might not have been the finest moment for the Canucks this season but it could turn out to be the most critical if it ends up being the boost they need to get into the playoffs. In order for that to happen, however, the Canucks will need to follow-up that slim 1-0 victory over the Blues with an equally positive result tonight against the Wild. This game is especially crucial for the Canucks considering the Wild are one of the handful of teams that are currently battling it out for the two Wildcard spots in the Western Conference. The Canucks begin play today sitting six points behind the Wild in the standings but have played one more game than they have.
The Wild, who went into the Olympic break riding a two-game win streak, picked up right where they left off last night with a 3-0 victory over the hapless Oilers. Minnesota has been riding high since the start of the New Year compiling a record of 12-4-2 in 2014. By comparison the Canucks, who had an eight-point lead on the Wild to start the New Year, are a dismal 5-13-2 since the beginning of January. This is the second of three meetings this season between the former Northwest Division foes. The Wild triumphed 3-2 in a shootout back on December 17. The Canucks could get some good news on the injury front with Ryan Kesler probable to return after missing Wednesday’s game with a hand injury. Roberto Luongo will get his first post-Olympic start tonight and is looking to snap his personal five-game losing streak.
Puck drop at 7 pm PT – Live on Sportsnet Pacific, THE TEAM 1040, or online at www.teamradio.ca.
KEYS TO THE GAME
1. Keep firing. The Canucks found their winning ways again on Wednesday but not their offensive touch managing just a single goal in their win over the Blues. They did, however, have more than their fair share of scoring chances. If they keep up that offensive pressure, you'd have to figure the goals will eventually start coming.
2. Add fuel to the Kes fire. No Canuck has been in the spotlight more since the Olympic break than Kesler and he hasn’t even played a game yet. If Kesler wanted to give the media more to talk about, then a huge game on the scoresheet would be a great way to accomplish that.
3. Parise produces. Captain America was ice cold during the Olympics recording just one goal in six games but he was red hot prior to it netting nine points in five games leading up to the Games. The Wild, who don't score a whole lot, will be counting on him to keep being their offensive catalyst.
Rogers Game Day
1st – Game for Keith Ballard at Rogers Arena since signing with the Wild in the off-season.
3 – Straight wins for the Wild over the Canucks dating back to March 10, 2013.
9 – Points (3-6-9) for Ryan Kesler in the 11 games prior to the Olympic break.
10 – Straight games without a point for Daniel Sedin.
29:49 – Average ice-time per game for Minnesota's Ryan Suter this season, leading all NHL players.
995 – Career games played by ex-Canuck Matt Cooke. Tonight will be his 996th career game.
IN THE INFIRMARY
For the Canucks…
F Ryan Kesler (hand) and D Kevin Bieksa (lower body) are questionable. D Christopher Tanev (broken thumb), F Mike Santorelli (shoulder surgery) and D Andrew Alberts (head) are on the injured reserve list.
For the Wild…
F Mikko Koivu (ankle surgery), F Jason Zucker (leg surgery), D Marco Scandella (sprained knee) and G Josh Harding (illness) are on the injured reserve list.
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