O'Brien suspended as Canucks start road trip

The Vancouver Canucks could get a little healthier during a five-game road trip, which begins Thursday night against the Minnesota Wild.

But other players could return from injury

Despite a lengthy list of injured players, the Vancouver Canucks keep finding ways to win.

The Canucks could get a little healthier during a five-game road trip, which begins Thursday night against the Minnesota Wild.

There will be a new player out of the lineup, but it won't be due to injury.

Defenceman Shane O'Brien, who has appeared in 15 games this season, was suspended one game by the NHL on Thursday.

O'Brien was suspended for making contact with Sean Avery while both players were on the bench during the Vancouver-New York Rangers fracas on Tuesday.

O'Brien will also be fined over $8,000 US.

Luongo, Sedin injured

Vancouver's most notable injuries are to No. 1 goaltender Roberto Luongo (fractured rib) and 2008-09 leading goal scorer Daniel Sedin (broken foot), but Luongo is expected to return on this trip along with forward Jannik Hansen, who fractured his right hand in a preseason fight.

Centres Ryan Johnson (concussion) and Alexandre Bolduc (shoulder) could also travel with the team, but Sedin and Pavol Demitra (shoulder) are expected to stay home. The trip ends in Colorado on Nov. 14.

"Obviously, it's challenging for everyone, but [injuries] are a part of the game," left wing Alex Burrows told the league's official website. "Hopefully, we'll get those guys back soon."

The Canucks, however, lost Michael Grabner for at least six weeks after he fractured his ankle before Sunday's 3-0 win over Colorado. Vancouver followed with a 4-1 home victory over the New York Rangers on Tuesday night as Andrew Raycroft continued his strong play in place of Luongo.

Raycroft earned his first shutout in nearly two years against the Avalanche, his former team, and stopped 22 shots Tuesday for his third win in four starts since Luongo got hurt.

"It's good to do a good job filling in," said Raycroft, who leads the NHL with a 1.52 goals-against average. "Tonight was definitely my best game this year, I think."

The Canucks (9-7-0) scored three goals in the final 11:12 on Tuesday en route to their sixth win in eight games.

"This team has a lot of character, a lot of grit, a lot of hard work," said Ryan Kesler, who has a goal and three assists in the last two games.

Wild beginning to roll

The Wild (5-9-0) are relatively healthy and have won consecutive games for the first time this season, beating the Rangers on Friday and snapping an eight-game road losing streak the next night against Pittsburgh.

Niklas Backstrom stopped 34 shots and Eric Belanger scored the go-ahead goal in Saturday's 2-1 victory.

"You definitely have to give the credit to Backstrom in this one," coach Todd Richards said. "He made some huge saves for us, and when you're where we are at in the standings, that is what you need. You need performances like that from your star players. And Nick is definitely one of those star players."

Backstrom has a 2.23 career goals-against average against the Canucks and has been in net for all seven meetings since the start of last season but won only once. Minnesota needed overtime to win that game 4-3 and was held to seven goals in the other six.

The only matchup this season saw Backstrom make 37 saves in a 2-1 defeat in Vancouver on Oct. 17. Kesler scored and Mikael Samuelsson, who leads the Canucks with eight goals, had the game-winner in the third.

Vancouver has won three straight in Minnesota but Luongo was in net for each. Raycroft lost his only game against the Wild over the last two-plus seasons.