Canucks look for division lead in Minnesota
For the Vancouver Canucks, Tuesday night's game in Minnesota is a shot at their division lead and a chance to grab home-ice advantage in the first round. For the Wild, it's merely the chance to edge closer to the final playoff spot in the West.
Since dropping eight in a row in January, Vancouver (41-25-9, 91 PTS) has gone 19-5-1 and sits just one point behind Northwest Division leading Calgary with a game in hand on the Flames.
The Canucks land in St. Paul to play the Wild on their final game of a six-game road swing and have gone 3-2-0 thus far.
Fresh off a 4-0 win over Chicago that moved the Canucks into a tie with the Blackhawks for fourth spot in the West, Vancouver can leapfrog into the lead of the Northwest Division and take over third spot with a win against the Wild.
History suggests that the Canucks have a good chance of doing just that, winning the last two meetings between the two clubs and going 4-0-1 against their division rivals altogether this season. The Canucks' offence is firing on all cylinders as Colorado and Chicago learned in their recent games. Vancouver lit up the Avs and Blackhawks, posting an aggregate score of 8-1.
The Wild will have to watch out for the Sedin twins, who have caught fire offensively during their road trip. Daniel has four goals and four assists in his last four games and his twin brother Henrik has three goals and six assists in the same period of time.
Vancouver's Roberto Luongo will also present a challenge to Minnesota. He's coming off a 26-save performance on Sunday against Chicago that earned him his seventh shutout of the season. The Canucks keeper is 2-0-1 with a 1.99 GAA versus Minnesota this season.
Minnesota (36-32-8, 80 PTS) is in 11th place in the Western Conference and has just six games left in the season to make a push for the playoffs. They sit three points behind eighth-place St. Louis, two behind Anaheim and trail Edmonton by a single point.
With the Oilers and Ducks meeting on Tuesday night and one team guaranteed two points, the Wild need to consider Tuesday night's tilt against Vancouver a must-win.
"We'll start with winning the next one," Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire said. "We want the guys to get ready for the next game and focus on one game at a time and hope the teams that are ahead of us lose."
To beat the Canucks, the Wild will need a better supporting effort in front of all-star Niklas Backstrom. The all-star netminder has posted a 2.82 GAA against Vancouver this season, yet is 1-4-0 against them in 2008-09, losing two one-goal games to the Canucks this season.
Minnesota has been finding the back of the net consistently, scoring 11 goals over their past three games and the return of the Wild's leading scorer, Mikko Koivu, should help.
Koivu returned Sunday after missing three games with a leg injury and has scored four of his 18 goals this season against the Canucks.