December 12 2009 12:48PM
NOTE - Tonight's game may be a great cure for insomniacs out there.
Can the Vancouver Canucks build on a great start to their eight-game home stand? They'll try tonight as they host hated division rival Minnesota Wild tonight at GM Place.
The Canucks kicked off their lengthy home stay with a decisive win over the visiting Thrashers Thursday night. Vancouver played a solid, all-around effort and should look to duplicate that tonight.
The Canucks still have room for improvement, as they took a quick succession of penalties in the first period, allowing the Thrashers to cash in on the power play. Vancouver's penalty kill continues to plague them and is a massive Achilles' heel for them right now.
The Minnesota Wild have rebounded lately after a dismal start to the season, and are the hottest team in the Western Conference, going 8-1-1 in their last ten games. The problem for the Wild is that they simply don't score goals. They're great at keeping the puck out of their own net, but have problem putting in the other one. The Wild have a very good PK and are 4th in the league in faceoff winning percentage. These are two areas that the Canucks are going to have to win in order to turn the momentum of the game in their favour. The Canucks themselves have a very good power play and are 6th in the league in the faceoff circle.
The key battle that I see tonight is when the Canucks are shorthanded. The Wild are not especially good on the power play, ranking 19th, but the Canucks PK is terrible this season, ranking them 27th. More importantly, the Canucks lack of ability to kill penalties has cost them games. The biggest factor in tonight's game will be for the Canucks to stay disciplined. If they do take a penalty, they need to play smart simple defence and kill off EVERY penalty. The Wild are not very strong offensively, but they are opportunistic. If they get a lead, they'll hunker down and shut the game down quickly and effectively.
The biggest positive for the Canucks is the fact that the Wild come into Vancouver after playing and winning last night in Calgary. The Canucks again need to take advantage of a potentially tired team, playing the second of back-to-back games. The Canucks faced the same situation against the Thrashers and took full advantage.
Can they do the same against the Wild? They need to stick to their same lineup and game plan, and they should see a similar result.