The Wild returns to the ever-friendly Xcel Energy Center tonight as it hosts the Canucks in a short pit stop home before heading out on the road again.
Though Minnesota and Vancouver are no longer divisional foes, rest assured, old emotions are just below the surface. Tonight marks the 74th meeting between the two teams; the Wild holds a 30-29-14 record overall and a 19-13-5 record in Saint Paul.
The night is a milestone for one of the Wild’s newest members as winger Nino Niederreiter is set to skate in his 100th NHL career game. Through 99 games, the Chur, Switzerland native has eight goals and 11 assists for 19 points. He’s tallied 16 of those points (6-10=16) this season in 35 games with Minnesota after previously skating with the New York Islanders.
Josh Harding is expected to get the start in the net once again. The netminder leads the NHL with a 1.49 goals-against average and is second with a .939 save percentage and wins (17-5-3). Harding owns a 13-1-0 record at home this season including three shutouts — a mark that is tied for first in the NHL.
Last time out, Niederreiter broke a ten-game goal-less skid as he tied things up in Colorado with 3:53 on the clock, leading to a 2-1 shootout victory for the Wild over the Avalanche. Harding made 26 stops in the game.
The Canucks carry a seven-game win streak into tonight. Vancouver last saw action Saturday night in Boston where it upended the Bruins 6-2. Six different players scored for the Canucks: Jannik Hansen, David Booth, Chris Higgins, Yannick Weber, Henrik Sedin and Christopher Tanev. Netminder Roberto Luongo made a season-high 39 saves on the night.
Meet The Nucks
With Saturday marking its 20th win of the season and seventh in a row, Vancouver is a confident squad at the moment.
The Sedin twins lead the Canucks as each has 31 points on the season, though Daniel has the edge in goals with 11 (11-20=31) while Henrik has nine (9-22=31). Ryan Kesler leads the team in goals with 15 (15-11=26). Luongo anchors Vancouver in net with 16 wins, a .921 save percentage and a 2.19 goals against average in 29 games.
If You’re Going
As tonight is the final home game before the holidays, it marks the last game fans can donate toys or money for this year’s Toys For Tots dive. Wives and girlfriends of the players will be outside all gates of Xcel Energy Center prior to the game to collect donations.
Also, look out for ZK Wines and France 44 stationed near Gate 3, sections 112/113, selling gift baskets. Proceeds will benefit the Wild Foundation.
The Wild will wear its RED sweaters tonight.
Mikko Koivu’s shootout goal Saturday night marked his 14th career game-deciding goal, which tied Sidney Crosby for the most amongst all NHL players. His 33 career shootout goals rank T-4th most in the NHL. The captain leads Minnesota with 18 assists and is second in scoring with 25 points, 17 (6-11=17) of which he’s tallied in the last 20 games.
Here are the projected forward lines:
The blue line will look the same:
Between The Pipes
Harding is 2-4-0 with a 2.41 GAA, a .917 SV% and one shutout in eight games (six starts) against the Canucks.
Quote Of The Day
Normally by this point in the year we’ve had a healthy dose of them. I don’t think it will take too long before some of those hostilities are renewed and we remember what a great rivalry it’s been.
-Yeo on facing the Canucks for the first time as former division rivals
View From The Pressbox
Defenseman Nate Prosser is expected to be the healthy scratch on the blue line, while it appears Justin Fontaine and Mike Rupp will be the scratches up front. Forward Mikael Granlund is out with an upper-body injury.
Honorary State Of Hockey Resident
Andrew Alberts is from Minneapolis. Jordan Schroeder is a native of Lakeville and played two seasons at the University of Minnesota (2008-2010).
The Wild is 11-2-5 in one goal games this season and eight of its last 10 wins have been decided by the margin. Only Anaheim (12-1-5) has more wins from one-goal games.
Wild vs. Vancouver will be broadcast locally in high definition on FOX Sports North with a start time at 7 p.m. The game can be heard on KFAN 100.3 FM or online at Wild.com.
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