Canucks-Wild Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated November 02, 2011
The Vancouver Canucks stumbled through most of October before concluding the month in impressive fashion. Their momentum seems to have carried into November. Seeking a season-best third straight win Thursday night, visiting Vancouver tries for a fifth consecutive victory over the Minnesota Wild, who are coming off two impressive results of their own. The Canucks (6-5-1) struggled out of the gate following their trip to the Stanley Cup finals, winning just four of their first 10 games while getting shut out three times. Recently, they've picked up the pace. Vancouver recorded its highest scoring output of the season to close October, including three goals in the third period to defeat Southeast Division-leading Washington 7-4. The Canucks had a much easier time Tuesday, kicking off a six-game road trip with a 5-1 victory over Calgary. "As a team we wished we would have had a little bit of a better start, but things are starting to come together now, we're starting to get goals in bunches," left wing Chris Higgins told the Canucks' official website. Higgins leads the team with six goals after scoring three in the last two games. Roberto Luongo went 1-2-0 with a 4.54 goals-against average over his first three road games but rebounded nicely against the Flames, making 28 saves and coming within 32 seconds of his first shutout of the season. "He's one of the best goalies in the League," defenseman Alexander Edler said. "It's unfortunate about that last goal, but we know he's good and that makes us feel comfortable playing in front of him." Edler has been pretty good as well. He has three points in each of the last two games, including his first three goals of the season, and ranks third on the team with 12 points. "We said all along that we think Alex is a premiere defenseman in this league," coach Alain Vigneault said. "He's got the skill level and physical frame to be one of the best defensemen in the league and he's getting an opportunity." Power-play opportunities have led to two goals in each of the Canucks' last two games, and they've gone 6 for 9 with the man advantage during a four-game win streak over the Wild while outscoring them 16-5. Vancouver is 14-4-1 over the last 19 meetings, but Minnesota (5-3-3) enters this matchup with some confidence after sweeping a home-and-home set with Detroit. Josh Harding turned away 36 shots during Saturday's 1-0 victory and made 36 saves in Tuesday's 2-1 overtime win. Captain Mikko Koivu's first goal of the season tied Tuesday's game with a minute remaining before Devin Setoguchi's power-play tally sent the Wild home victorious. "(The Red Wings) are one of the best teams in the league, (but) it's about us and what we're going to do. Stick to our game," Harding said. It's unclear if Harding will be back in goal Thursday, having gone 0-3-0 with a 5.07 GAA in three career starts against the Canucks. Regular starter Niklas Backstrom hasn't been much better, losing four straight to Vancouver while compiling a 3.73 GAA. Backstrom made 29 saves in a 3-2 overtime loss at Vancouver on Oct. 22, while Cory Schneider made 21 saves to improve to 4-1-0 with a 1.67 GAA against the Wild. Luongo has lost three straight in Minnesota while posting a 7.00 GAA. The Wild have gone 4-2-2 over their last eight games despite going 3 of 35 on the power play. The Canucks have killed all but one of their opponents' 28 chances during their last seven games.
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