THE STORY: The Minnesota Wild have had their troubles of late with the Vancouver Canucks. Given what the Eastern Conference champions have done in their past two games, Thursday night may not be the best time for the Wild to end the drought. Minnesota hosts a Vancouver side that has scored 12 goals over its last two games, outgunning the Washington Capitals before cruising past the Calgary Flames. Defenseman Alex Edler has been the unlikely offensive hero for the Canucks, scoring three goals and adding three assists over his previous two games. Vancouver prevailed 3-2 in overtime in the previous meeting between the teams back on Oct. 22. Minnesota has lost the last four head-to-head encounters overall, but comes into this one fresh off a home-and-home sweep of the Detroit Red Wings.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, Rogers Sportsnet Pacific, Fox Sports North
ABOUT THE CANUCKS (6-5-1): Vancouver has rolled all four lines to near-perfection over its last 120 minutes of action, erasing the memory of back-to-back losses to Edmonton and St. Louis in which the team managed just two goals. It didn’t take long for the Canucks to put away the Flames, as they scored three times in the first period and twice more in the second to chase old nemesis Miikka Kiprusoff from the net.
ABOUT THE WILD (5-3-3): Goals are still hard to come by in Minnesota, but the defense is as stingy as ever. The Wild limited Detroit to a single goal in the home-and-home set, a great warmup for a Vancouver club that is firing on all cylinders on the offensive end. Josh Harding earned both victories against Detroit, and has played so well that there’s talk of him earning at least a partial time-share with starter Niklas Backstrom.
1. Harding’s only three games this season have all come against Detroit, and the results are impressive: he’s 2-0-1 with a 1.30 goals-against average, a .965 save percentage and a shutout.
2. After potting 25 goals in 55 games with the Wild two seasons ago, forward Guillaume Latendresse has just four in 21 games since.
3. Ryan Kesler has just one goal in seven games this season, but he has enjoyed success against Minnesota in his career – scoring 18 times in 42 career games versus the Wild.
PREDICTION: Canucks 3, Wild 2. Vancouver will do enough to escape with the win, but it won’t come easily. Expect Kesler to break out with a multi-point effort.