Wild Zuccarello, Canucks Miller

Canucks Game Day 27: Minny Gone Wild, VAN Tries Bounce Back

Canucks Game Facts

This Evening: Minnesota Wild at Vancouver Canucks

Where: Rogers Arena

When: 7 pm pacific

TV/Radio: Sportsnet / AM 650

Key Factors:

Starting goalies: Filip Gustavsson vs. Casey DeSmith

Workhorse Thatcher Demko gets a breather in net after a busy and frustrating Tuesday evening that saw the Devils score six goals, four of them in the first period. His night off comes two games into a five-game homestand for Vancouver.

Meanwhile, Gustavsson hasn’t been what he was last season for the Wild, but he’s coming around, as is the team.

Minnesota hasn’t lost since they fired head coach Dean Evason and assistant coach Bob Woods on November 27th, a perfect 4-and-0 under former New Jersey Devils and Nashville Predators head coach John Hynes. The Wild have outscored their opponents 18-5 during the run.

The team was on an 0-5-and-2 skid when Wild GM Bill Guerin made the change.

The club is healthy for the most part following a rash of early season injuries, including a long-term one to one of the NHL’s best defencemen in Jared Spurgeon. He’s played a total of ten games this season and has as assist in each of his last four.

For Vancouver, Andrei Kuzmenko drops to the fourth line — his play has been the frequent target of complaints from Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet — while Sam Lafferty moves up to play right wing with Ilya Mikheyev and Elias Pettersson.

Who’s Hot? And Not …

With the burst of offence lately, the Wild have seen leading scorer Mats Zuccarello put up seven points over his last five games. while winger Matt Boldy has four goals during that span.

26-year-old Russian winger Kirill Kaprizov has 23 points, four fewer than “Zook”, and is worth the price of admission.

Canucks forward J.T. Miller remains hot. Outside of going pointless in Calgary on Saturday night, he has nine points over his last five games and sits second in NHL scoring with 39. Brock Boeser is averaging a goal-a-game over his last five.

Aside from the continuing scoring drought for winger Conor Garland, whose assist two nights ago gave him eight points on the season, Phil Di Giuseppe has also fallen out of favour, also with just eight points. He was scratched for the game against the Devils.

Special Teams

Minnesota’s power play went 1-for-3 on Tuesday night while snuffing out all three Flames power plays. The Wild PP ranks 20th in the NHL at a subpar 18.8% while it’s PK works at a 71.1% effectiveness. Not good.

The Canucks overall power play is at a 27.4% success rate on the season, still good for fourth best in the NHL. They went 1-for-4 against the Devils at Rogers Arena two nights ago.

New Jersey went 1-for-2 on their power play, nudging the Vancouver penalty kill down to a poor 74.4% for the season.

Coming In:

Wild: 9-10-and-4 with a four-game win streak following Tuesday night’s 5-2 win in Calgary over the Flames.

Canucks: 16-9-and-1 following Tuesday night’s 6-5 loss at home to the New Jersey Devils.

ICYMI Canucks:

— The Hugeness Of The Canucks Bo Horvat Trade

— By NHL Standards, Canucks Tocchet As Honest As They Come

Rob Simpson

Rob Simpson has covered the NHL in five different decades. He’s authored 4 books on hockey and is a veteran TV and radio play-by-play man and reporter.