WILD (15-13-3) at CANUCKS (17-14-0)
Last 10: Minnesota 8-1-1; Vancouver 6-4-0
Season series: Third of six meetings this season between Northwest Division rivals, with Vancouver winning the first two. The Canucks edged the Wild 2-1 on home ice Oct. 17 behind a third-period goal by Mikael Samuelsson. A rare goal by tough guy Darcy Hordichuk opened the scoring and sparked them to a 5-2 victory in Minnesota on Nov. 5.
Big story: Minnesota could pass both Vancouver and Edmonton into third place in the Northwest with a regulation win Saturday. It took the Wild longer than expected to click under new coach Todd Richards, but now that they have it seems impossible to stop them. First-place Calgary found that out Friday when, despite the best efforts of goalie Miikka Kiprusoff, the Wild still found a way to pull out a 2-1 overtime victory.
Wild: If Martin Havlat gets going, Minnesota's opponents will really be in trouble. Perhaps the player who most embodied the Wild's early struggles, Havlat finished off a great give-and-go with Marek Zidlicky for the winning goal against the Flames. It was just the third of the season for the veteran who led Chicago in scoring last season.
"I think everybody did a great job," Havlat said. "We started very good. I think tonight we just kept it going until the last second. I think we played one of the best games we have played so far this year."
Canucks: Home after an up-and-down road trip (wins in New Jersey and Philadelphia followed by losses in Carolina and Nashville), Vancouver got an early hat trick from Daniel Sedin and doubled up Atlanta 4-2 on Thursday. The Canucks can finally settle in on their home ice, because this was the start of eight straight at GM Place, where they have now won 11 of 15 this season.
"We all know what the standings are like and how tight it is and we need some wins," goalie Roberto Luongo said. "We know the importance of this homestand."
Who's hot: Minnesota goaltender Niklas Backstrom is hitting his stride – he's allowed just three goals in his last three starts and has a .961 save percentage.
Vancouver is happy to have a full contingent of Sedins once again. Daniel has five goals and nine points in his last five games, while Henrik has put together five consecutive two-assist games and ranks third in the League with 38 points. Their linemate, Alexandre Burrows, has three goals and six points in the last five games.
Injury report: Defenseman Brent Burns and forwards Andrew Ebbett, Petr Sykora and Pierre-Marc Bouchard are all out for the Wild due to concussions.
Canucks defenseman Alexander Edler is expected to miss two weeks after a hard check into the boards against the Predators resulted in an injury to his left arm. Forwards Michael Grabner (broken ankle), Alexandre Bolduc (shoulder) and Pavol Demitra (shoulder) are all on injured reserve. Demitra has not played yet this season.
Stat pack: Vancouver is the only NHL team not to have lost a game this season that has gone beyond regulation. In fact, the Canucks have only had two games go beyond 60 minutes and have won them both in shootouts.
Puck drop: Due to the upcoming Olympics, there will be a stretch of nearly six weeks between late January and mid-March when Vancouver doesn't play a single home game as GM Place is used to determine who will take home the gold. This is the Canucks' time to make up ground in the standings and give themselves a cushion for when that rough stretch begins.