Canucks ready to ramp up the intensity against Wild
VANCOUVER – For the first time since the spring of 2015, the Vancouver Canucks (36-27-6) will take part in a National Hockey League post-season game tonight when they face the Minnesota Wild (35-27-7) at Rogers Place in Edmonton. It’s the opener of this best of five play-in series between teams separated by a single point in the regular season standings.
Statistically, there wasn’t much to choose between these teams. The Canucks scored 224 goals during the season while Minnesota netted 218. Defensively, the Canucks allowed 214 while the Wild surrendered 217.
The Canucks fell 4-1 to Winnipeg in their lone exhibition game on Wednesday. Despite registering 38 shots on the night, Antoine Roussel was the lone Canuck to beat Connor Hellebuyck. Tanner Pearson had a team high five shots on goal while his line with Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser combined for a dozen shots on the night.
After 272 career regular season appearances, Jacob Markstrom will make his NHL post-season debut tonight. He went the distance on Wednesday stopping 30 of the 33 shots he faced.
Markstrom is one of several key Canucks tasting post-season action for the first time. Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, Quinn Hughes, Troy Stecher, Adam Gaudette and Tyler Motte will all suit up for their first post-season contests. It would also be Jake Virtanen’s NHL post-season debut, however the big forward is not expected to dress for tonight’s play-in opener.
Pettersson shared the Canucks team lead in goals this season with 27 before play was halted. He missed one game due to injury this season – February 6th in Minnesota when the slick Swede took the pre-game warm-up but was a late scratch.
The Wild held a slim edge in the three game season series with each team winning once in regulation and Minnesota posting a 4-3 shootout victory on February 19th in Vancouver. That was Dean Evason’s first NHL win as a head coach. In their three head to head match-ups, the Canucks scored nine goals while the Wild scored eight). JT Miller led all scorers in the season series with 3+2=5.
In 12 games under Evason, after he replaced the fired Bruce Boudreau on February 14th, Minnesota went 8-4 outscoring opponents 43-35. The Wild dropped a 3-2 decision to Colorado on Wednesday in its lone tune-up for this series.
Kevin Fiala led the Wild in scoring this season with 23+31=54 in 64 games. He was the only one of the team’s top five scorers under the age of 30. Zack Parise, who turned 36 last Tuesday, led the club with 25 goals and 12 power play markers.
Thirty-five year old Ryan Suter was second on the Wild with 48 points. He was ninth among NHL defensemen in points and ninth overall in the league in average ice time logging 24:38 a night.
Alex Stalock is expected to get the start in goal tonight. The veteran netminder was 20-11-4 in a career-high 36 starts this season posting a 2.67 GAA and a 91.0% save percentage. He has one playoff start on his resume. It came on April 28, 2014 with San Jose in a 4-1 loss at Los Angeles.
The Canucks and Wild have met once in the post-season with Minnesota prevailing 4-3 in a seven-game series in 2003. The Wild took Game 6 on home ice and the following night won Game 7 in Vancouver.
POSSIBLE CANUCKS LINE-UP
POSSIBLE WILD LINE-UP