April 07 2011 11:40AM
I hope Ehrhoff is saying "Don't touch me! Don't touch me! Don't touch me!" ... in German.
(Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
Game Day Recon #81 - Wild @ Canucks
The Vancouver Canucks play their final home game of the regular season tonight as they face Northwest Division rival the Minnesota Wild. The Canucks are looking to come back after two very lacklustre efforts against the Oilers and hope to turn the tide in their penultimate regular season game before they start the playoffs as the #1 seed.
Also, I wanted to use the word 'penultimate'.
Game Time: 7:00 PM PT
Both the Minnesota Wild and Vancouver Canucks are coming off two straight losses. And those can probably be isolated on their own. Especially for the Canucks, who lost those two games AFTER locking up the Presidents' Trophy. However, the last 10 games tell a very different story for either team. Including those two losses, the Canucks are 7-3-0 while the Wild are 2-7-1.
The Wild are in a free-fall, and it's almost entirely related to the injuries that the team has sustained. The Canucks have had their fair share of injured players, but Minnesota simply doesn't have the depth to ride out the storm like the Canucks. Currently Cam Barker, Jesse Schultz, James Sheppard, Guillaume Latendresse and Josh Harding have all been sidelined for the season, while Marek Zidlicky, Martin Havlat, John Madden and Marco Scandella are out for tonight's and tomorrow's game (@ EDM). The only bit of good news for the Wild is that Cal Clutterbuck should return to play against Vancouver tonight.
While the Wild are in a tailspin, the Canucks have weathered the storm and are getting healthy quickly. Their only significant longterm injury remains Manny Malhotra, sidelined with his eye injury. Alex Edler returns tonight from back surgery, while Dan Hamhuis and Andrew Alberts have been practicing are expected back soon, likely in time for the playoffs. As I write this, the Canucks have announced that both Yann Sauve and Chris Tanev have been re-assigned to Manitoba, which mean that the Canucks know that the defensive cavalry is returning.
The same can't be said for the forwards though, as Raffi Torres is expected to be suspended for his late elbow against Jordan Eberle in Tuesday's game in Edmonton. It is likely that Torres will be suspended for two to three games, but it means that the Canucks will only have 17 skaters tonight, as they don't have time to call up another forward to take his spot. If the Canucks were fighting for a playoff spot or for an extra advantage heading into the post-season, missing a skater would be a big deal. But they are playing for nothing but staying healthy and padding stats. So there really isn't any reason to stress and get another player in the lineup. They will likely have someone called up in time for their game in Calgary on Saturday, and my guess would be Victor Oreskovich.
The Three Keys
Here are the three keys for the Vancouver Canucks tonight:
1. Stay healthy. The Canucks have 120 minutes of stat-padding hockey left to play this season. They are finally getting their defensemen back to a full roster. There is no need to block shots or make crunching hits or anything of that nature, especially against a severely beat-up Wild squad.
2. Give the fans what they want. Offense. They should be playing this like an All-Star game offensively. Well, we hope so anyway. Let's see some Harlem Globetrotters-esque work from the Sedins and Burrows. It's a tall task but the more they keep the puck, the more likely they can pad their stats.
3. Get their special teams clicking.They've hit a pretty big bump in their last 9 games, as I wrote about yesterday. The Wild provide quite a good special teams test, so this will be a good indicator to see if the Canucks can get their PP and PK rolling again.
Here are your top 5 links for today's game:
1. Tale of the Tape: Wild @ Canucks (Canucks.com)
2. Canucks vs Wild Gameday April 7 (The Province)
3. Canucks try to get back on track before playoffs (CBC Sports)
5. Wilderness Walk for 4-7-2011: Game Day Edition (Hockey Wilderness) << SEE WHAT THE ENEMY HAS TO SAY!