If you’re looking for a weakness in the Minnesota Wild’s game right now, you might as well be searching for Bobby Fischer. When a team is hot like the Wild, which has won nine of its last 11, we like to say they’re firing on all cylinders. As annoying as that cliché is, it’s true. The Wild goaltending has been rock solid, as usual. That has a lot to do with the defense playing so well in its own zone. That has a lot to do with the offense stepping up and controlling the puck while wearing out the opponent. That has a lot to do with the Wild power play thriving, and the rest of the players not taking too many penalties. Heck, we can’t even point to struggles in the shootout anymore. The Wild has won two shootouts in the last two weeks.
Tonight, Minnesota will bring its swagger into a matchup with the NHL’s best team whenever it’s not playing in St. Paul. The Vancouver Canucks have won 34 games this year, but they’re winless in their last four games at Xcel Energy Center, including two games this season.
The Wild won a fourth straight home game and third straight overall on Saturday with an emotional 3-1 victory over the St. Louis Blues. Cal Clutterbuck, Antti Miettinen and Kyle Brodziak tallied the goals while Nik Backstrom earned his 18th victory of the season while making 24 saves.
The Canucks flew into Minnesota late last night after dropping a 3-2 decision to the Blues in St. Louis last night. Henrik Sedin and Jannik Hansen picked up the Vancouver goals while Roberto Luongo took the loss while stopping 31 shots. It was Luongo’s first loss in regulation since December 5.
If you’re looking to see the Wild take down the NHL’s top team for the third time this season, try a lower level standing rail ticket for $48. You have a great view of the action, and a quick pivot puts you right in the concourse for another beverage. Click here to purchase.
Wild vs. Canucks will be broadcast locally in high definition on Fox Sports North at 7:00 PM. The game can be heard on WCCO 830 AM, or online at Wild.com.
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The first 3,500 fans in the building tonight will receive Top Moment #5 in the Top Ten Moments Puck Series. Tonight’s puck will commemorate Richard Park’s stunning overtime goal on Patrick Roy in Game Six of the 2003 Western Conference quarterfinals.
Vancouver owns an eye-popping 12-2-2 record against the Northwest Division this season, and of course we know who handed the Canucks those two regulation losses.
The Nucks tend to bring out the best in the Wild, and a lot of has to do it with the players on the roster that tend to rile up the guys in green. One of those is Alex Burrows, who is known for his mouth, but is talking with his stick lately. Burrows owns eight goals and four assists during a 10-game scoring streak, the longest current streak in the league.
Burrows may be streaking, but we’re plenty happy with our agitator here in Minnesota, Mr. Clutterbuck. With three goals in his last two games and four points in the last three, Clutterbuck continues his breakout season. With 17 tallies on the year, Clutter is rolling toward his first 20-goal season and he’s coasting toward another hits title with a league-leading 250 hits.
At some point, the Wild’s indescribable domination of the Canucks at home will end…maybe. But will it happen tonight? On January 20, Vancouver tried throwing Cory Schneider in the cage due to Luongo’s horrendous numbers at Xcel Energy Center. It didn’t help. The Wild trampled the Canucks, 4-0. The Wild will look to jump on Vancouver early, considering they played last night and are missing key contributors on the back end, Dan Hamhuis, Keith Ballard, Alex Edler and now, Andrew Alberts, who broke his wrist last night.
As he left the ice with his arms motioning for the crowd to stand up on Saturday night, Clayton Stoner was basking in the deafening cheers in his honor. Most likely, that ovation was a reaction to his pummeling of David Backes in a bout that started after the final buzzer. But perhaps they should have been to honor the way Stoner has played over the past month and a half. Playing rock solid defense with an edge, Stoner has bumped his plus/minus rating to a team-high +8.
Stoner might be the most underrated feel-good story on this Wild team, considering his injury history and his struggles at the start of the season. Now, he might be the Wild’s most reliable blueliner, which is saying something on a team that has given up more than two goals just once in the last seven games.
"I think it was just the confidence in playing. He simplified his game. I think there was always the threat of us recalling someone else and playing them. I think it’s just a confidence in himself and how he’s played.”
-- Todd Richards addressing the play of Stoner, who came into the lineup when Zidlicky was injured.
D Alberts is a product of Benilde-St. Margaret’s, while Ballard starred at Lake of the Woods and the University of Minnesota. LW Mason Raymond played his college hockey at Minnesota Duluth.