NHL

Kesler returns as Canucks host Wild looking to stay on track

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The Sports Network
2/28/2014 1:59:17 PM
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The Vancouver Canucks ended a lengthy losing streak in their first appearance after the Olympics. They'll shoot for another positive result when they host the Minnesota Wild in tonight's clash at Rogers Arena.

The Canucks went into the NHL's Olympic break mired in an 0-7-0 slump, but halted that slide with Wednesday's 1-0 win over the visiting St. Louis Blues.

It had been Vancouver's longest stretch of regulation losses since the 1998-99 season, but goaltender Eddie Lack helped snap the skid with a 20-save shutout performance.

"Lack was outstanding," Vancouver head coach John Tortorella said of his rookie goaltender. "Key saves at key times. He calms this team down."

Jannik Hansen provided the offense needed for Vancouver's recent win, scoring the game's only goal late in the third period.

After outshooting St. Louis 28-17 over the first 40 minutes, Vancouver finally broke the scoreless deadlock late in the third when Tom Sestito picked up the puck along the right midboards in his own zone and backhanded a beautiful outlet pass to Hansen.

Hansen corralled the disc near the red line and split two defenders near the blue line before skating into the inner half of the right circle and rifling a wrister under the right arm of Jaroslav Halak to make it 1-0 at the 11:13 mark.

The Canucks played Wednesday's game without forward Ryan Kesler, who is dealing with a bruised right hand. The American Olympian has been the subject of trade rumours ahead of next week's deadline and returns to the lineup for tonight's tilt.

Despite the win on Wednesday, Vancouver was knocked out of a playoff position while idle on Thursday as Dallas moved into the eighth spot in the West with a win over Carolina. The Canucks are tied with Phoenix and one point back of the Stars.

Lack will get another start tonight while Roberto Luongo sits this one out. Luongo won his second gold medal with Team Canada in Sochi after playing a backup role to Carey Price.

Tonight's test marks the final test for Vancouver before hosting Ottawa in Sunday's outdoor battle at BC Place.

The Wild posted a third straight win when they came back from the break to post Thursday's 3-0 victory in Edmonton.

Darcy Kuemper made 21 saves for his second shutout of the season to anchor the win. Mikael Granlund, Stephane Veilleux and Dany Heatley scored for the Wild, who will aim for their first four-game winning streak since Jan. 2-9.

"I thought that our guys had a real good focus on defending tonight and doing it the right way," Minnesota head coach Mike Yeo said.

Kuemper is expected to get the start again tonight. Niklas Backstrom is dealing with an abdominal problem at the moment, but he was able to dress as the backup on Thursday.

The Wild, who are seventh in the West and six points ahead of the Canucks, are completing a two-game road trip tonight. Minnesota is 11-14-5 as the away team this season.

Minnesota beat the a visiting Canucks team 3-2 in a shootout on Dec. 17, giving the Wild wins in three straight and four of the last six meetings in this series. Vancouver, however, has dominated the Wild in B.C. in recent seasons, winning 11 straight at Rogers Arena in this series before Minnesota halted that streak with a 3-1 win on March 18 of last season.

Ryan Kesler (Photo: Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images)

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(Photo: Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images)

Wild at Canucks

GAME NOTES

MIN is 1-0-0 vs VAN this season, SOW at home
Teams split two games in VAN last season
VAN (28-24-9):
16 of their wins have been by 1G
2 or fewer GF in 21 of past 26 games
won last game, last won 2 straight Jan 18/21, 10 games since
D Sedin (0PTS) last 10GP
MIN (32-21-7):
24-4-3 when scoring first
won 3 straight, 3GA, 8/8 on PK
Heatley (3G, 3A) 5 game PT streak
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