The Wild looks to extend its modest 2-0-2 point streak to a season-best five games tonight when it visits the Vancouver Canucks.
Six of the Canucks' nine wins have come courtesy of overtime and shootouts, and despite going up against a team missing its top defense pair and deploying the youngest D in the NHL, the Wild better bring its working boots.
"Well, if we don't, we're going to be in trouble because this team works," coach Bruce Boudreau said of the Canucks. "I mean, they're young, and what I've found with young teams, they work extra hard and if you're not willing to push back, they end up winning a 2-1 hockey game.
"They go to the net really well and they skate hard and, plus, the Sedin line's pretty good still and [Bo] Horvat on the second line is leading the team in scoring. There's a lot of good things about these guys, and they're not giving up a lot of goals lately. They had the one bad [0-8-1] stretch, but other than that, they've played pretty solid.
"They won't be pushovers."
If I'm the Wild, I chip pucks early, try to forecheck Vancouver's young D early and wear them down late.
The key tonight for the Wild to be successful must be its forecheck.
Darcy Kuemper gets the nod tonight. It's believed Ryan Miller starts for Vancouver. He is 3-8 with a 2.67 goals-against average and .910 save percentage.
Kuemper is 2-2 all-time vs. the Canucks with a 2.15 goals-against average and .923 save percentage.
He has given up three goals in two starts in Vancouver and has a .951 save percentage in this arena.
This season, he is 2-1-1 with a 2.94 goals-against average and .908 save percentage. He was real good in Ottawa two starts ago and was pretty solid (other than arguably the overtime winner) in Dallas eight nights ago.
Gustav Olofsson will actually make his season debut. Boudreau wouldn't tip his hand, but Nate Prosser was getting bagged. This will be his third NHL game.
"Definitely excited," Olofsson said. "I just want to make the most of the opportunity, showcase myself a little bit and help the team in any way I can. I need to play simple."
The Wild will have four lefties in the lineup tonight and two righties, so with Jonas Brodin will have to play the right side, where he has been good in the past. But he's been great on the left this season.
Not sure of the pairs. Marco Scandella with Brodin makes sense, but then Olofsson would play with Matt Dumba, which could be a gamble since Dumba can be a bit of a wild stallion on the ice. But Olofsson is a poised, very smart, safe defenseman who can skate, so my gut says that's the way they'd go.
We shall see.
Jared Spurgeon turned 27 today -- exactly six years after he made his NHL debut on his 21st birthday in Calgary. He joked, "I still have the same beard."
He'll get to have a birthday party at his parent's home in Edmonton the off-day between Calgary and Edmonton, so he's excited about that.
Talk later. The Wild's 8-3 in its past 11 against the Canucks, 4-1 in its past five in Van.