The Vancouver Canucks kick off a five-game road trip in the twin cities tonight as the visit the Minnesota Wild. The Canucks have been playing well lately, winning six of their last eight games. The Wild, meanwhile, haven’t played in 5 days after winning back-to-back games.
Ryan Johnson figures to return to the line-up after sitting out four games due to injury. As well, Kevin Bieksa is likely to play wing on the top line, with Henrik Sedin and Alex Burrows. The roster shakeup continues as coach Alain Vigneault tries to manage the long list of injured absentees. Bieksa proved effective as a forward in his last game against the New York Rangers, so this may be a good opportunity for him to find his game, after he started the season struggling in his regular defensive position.
As well, Roberto Luongo and Jannik Hansen have joined the Canucks on this road trip. Both players will make their way back into the roster on this trip, once they feel ready. As for Luongo, a potential target date for his return would be next Thursday in Detroit to take on the Red Wings.
The Canucks have literally just been surviving to ice a team given the rampant injuries that have plagued the team. But amazingly they have managed to put together a string of wins and keep the ship sailing straight, despite missing their all-star goalie and leading scorer. Much of the praise for filling both of those absences has to fall on two players – Andrew Raycroft and Ryan Kesler. Raycroft leads the league in GAA at 1.52, and sits third in save percentage at 0.937. Kesler has 16 points in 16 games, and is second only to Henrik (17) in team scoring. Kesler and Raycroft combined have carried much of the burden of the missing players.
The Canucks will have to pay particular attention to Mikko Koivu, who always seems to play his best against Vancouver. As well, Martin Havlat figures to cause some problems for the Canucks. Brent Burns has had an uncharacteristically tough year so far, struggling defensively.
The Wild have had a LOT of trouble scoring this year. This bokes well for the Canucks who haven’t exactly been prolific with goals this years, but have managed to win games by keeping the scores low – a recipe the Wild followed for many years.
This Canucks/Wild tilt promises to be yet another low-scoring, tight-checking affair – low on entertainment but hopefully the Canucks can eek out their fourth straight victory.