The Minnesota Wild face the Vancouver Canucks for the final time this season tonight at the Xcel Energy Center. Puck drop is early tonight at 6:30 pm Central Time. The Wild are going for a season sweep of the Canucks after taking the first two games in shootout’s, 3-2 on Dec. 17 at Xcel Energy Center and 2-1 on Feb. 28 in Rogers Arena. Minnesota has beaten Vancouver in 4-straight games dating back to last season, a club record streak, and have totaled 78 points against them all time. That’s the third highest total of the Wild vs any other NHL team. The Wild are entering the last 10 games of the season and face a tough list of opponents. They control whether or not there are Stanley Cup Playoff games in St. Paul this spring. Entering play tonight the Wild are at 85 points just 3 points in front of the Phoenix Coyotes. The Wild do have a game in hand on the Coyotes who lead Dallas by 3 points for the final Wild Card Spot in the Western Conference. Tonight is the first of back to back games for Minnesota as the team travels to St. Louis to face the Central Division leading Blues tomorrow. The Wild play 5 games over the next 9 days, 4 on the road.
This morning Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo revealed Darcy Kuemper will get the start in goal tonight. Kuemper is 1-1 in his career vs Vancouver. You may recall his brilliant 30 saves regulation and overtime followed by an incredible 7-of-7 performance in a shootout win at Rogers Arena on Feb. 28. I’d say putting Kuemper back in net against the Canucks tonight is definitely the right call. For the season he’s 12-6-4 with a .922 save % and a 2.26 goals against average.
The forward lines for this evening appear to be the following based on the morning skate:
Cody McCormick looks to be back in the lineup for the Wild tonight making Stephane Veilleux and Mike Rupp the healthy scratches. Having McCormick in the lineup isn’t a bad idea given the history of rough stuff between these two teams and the absence of Clayton Stoner due to injury.
Speaking of the defense the pairings tonight look to be the same as the last couple of games with:
Blum earned praise from Coach Yeo after the last game vs Detroit for his strong play in the defensive zone and willingness to put the puck on goal as well. He remains in the lineup with both Stoner and Keith Ballard out with injuries.
Tonight is the start of the stretch run for the Minnesota Wild. They are currently in good position in the Western Conference race and are in full control of their own destiny. It’s win and they’re in for the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2014. The stretch run starts tonight and the horses are healthy for the most part. They’re coming out of the final curve and heading for home looking for a show finish in the regular season. I’ll be back after the action with a recap and analysis. Until them this is Scott Drain now shrieking at the top of my lungs, “LET’S GO WILD!!”