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Canucks game day: Morning hockey in Minnesota as Canucks shoot for fifth straight win

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Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Paterson
2 months ago
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With the season they’ve had and the way they’re playing right now, the Vancouver Canucks should take plenty of confidence – and heightened expectations – with them on a four-game road trip that begins with an early 11am Pacific time start today in Minnesota.
Forget the old hockey adage about trying to be a .500 club on the road and ramping things up at home, the Canucks ought to be aiming higher these days. A two-win trek feels like the bare minimum as a baseline for success. And, of course, a win against the Wild is the best way to set the tone for a trip that will also take the club to Chicago, Nashville and Dallas.
The Canucks have won four straight games and five of their last six following an impressive 4-0 shutout of Florida on Thursday. At the 30-game mark, the Canucks are 20-9-1, they lead the league in offence and are third defensively. This current win streak started with a 2-0 victory over the Wild on December 7th. 
After a sloppy 6-5 loss to New Jersey to open their recent five-game homestand, the Canucks tightened up in their own zone and have allowed just four goals in their last four games. Getting centre Pius Suter back on Thursday night after a 14-game injury absence gave Rick Tocchet four solid lines and the coach took advantage of his options. 
No forward played more than Elias Pettersson’s 17:08 against Florida while Nils Höglander was the low forward in ice time at 12:00 even. So there was balance throughout the forward group with JT Miller seeing his second lowest ice time of the season at 15:30. With a comfortable lead against the Panthers and with an eye to these four games in six nights on this road trip, the Canucks were able to roll four lines on Thursday without taxing any of their top players.
Dakota Joshua had a big night with a pair of goals and a team-high six hits. The winger has now moved into fifth in the NHL with 89 hits on the season and, since being a healthy scratch in San Jose on November 2nd, Joshua sits third in the league with 68.
Brock Boeser scored his team-leading 22nd goal of the season on a second period power play. As he returns to his home state and the site of his NHL debut, Boeser has nine goals in his last nine games and has a chance to set a career-high if he can extend his point streak to 10 games today.
Andrei Kuzmenko has scored in back to back games for the first time this season and after a sluggish start to his sophomore campaign now has three goals in his last seven outings.
A win at Xcel Energy Center won’t be easy. Since a coaching change late last month, the Wild has won six of eight games under new bench boss John Hynes including all three games played on home ice. On Thursday, Minnesota edged Calgary 3-2 in a shootout.
Much of the Wild’s better form of late has been on the back of goaltender Filip Gustavsson who is 5-1 in his last six starts with a 1.33 GAA and .950 save percentage over that span. That lone loss, however, was against the Canucks at Rogers Arena last week. Gustavsson will get a chance at redemption as he gets the start in goal today.
Joel Eriksson-Ek leads the Wild with 14 goals while rookie Marco Rossi is second on the team after scoring his 10th of the season on Thursday night. Mats Zuccarello leads the club with 28 points while Kirill Kaprizov has 24.
Minnesota is dealing with injuries on its blueline. Veteran Jonas Brodin will be out for a while with an upper body injury while captain Jared Spurgeon missed Thursday’s game with a lower body injury and is listed as day to day. In their absence, rookie Brock Faber logged 30:06 including 3:11 of overtime against Calgary while Jacob Middleton played 26:02 – nearly seven minutes more than his season average.
After today’s game, the Canucks will have a quick turnaround ahead of another matinee tomorrow when they face North Vancouver’s Connor Bedard for the first time. The Canucks and Chicago Blackhawks will face-off at noon Pacific on Sunday at United Center.

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