SAINT PAUL, Minn. — Winning on the road isn’t easy in the NHL, and for the Vancouver Canucks, success away from the Pacific Northwest has been elusive lately.
Although there’s a newfound optimism among the Canucks as they head into Sunday evening’s meeting with the Minnesota Wild at the Xcel Energy Center, courtesy of some long-elusive luck they found in their last outing.
The Canucks are still well out of the playoff hunt, but are feeling better about themselves as they prep to hit the ice in Minnesota after snapping a five-game losing streak in their last outing. The long-dormant Canucks’ offense broke out Friday in Columbus, turning good bounces into goals in a 5-2 victory over the Blue Jackets.
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“It was nice to get some puck luck on our side,” said Canucks coach Travis Green after his team scored more than two goals in a game for the first time in the past four. “Sometimes that’s the way it goes.”
For a team that is expected to be sellers with the trade deadline approaching, perhaps the best development in the win at Columbus was the two-assist night turned in by forward Thomas Vanek. With his offensive numbers climbing, the speculation has begun that Vanek will be a valued asset in the coming months, with teams looking to add goal scorers for the playoff push.
One team certain to be uninterested in taking on Vanek’s salary at the trade deadline is Minnesota, where Vanek played for two high-priced and underachieving seasons before the Wild bought out the final year of his contract in the summer of 2016.
While the Wild aren’t scoring goals at an overly impressive clip lately, they have won two in a row, beating Chicago on the road Wednesday and Winnipeg at home Saturday.
They pounced on a tired Jets team in their last outing, and playing on back-to-back days, the Wild players know they have to guard against the same problem with the Canucks slightly more rested.
“You can’t be pretty (Sunday). It’s got to be back to work, back to grinding them down, especially against a team like Vancouver that has some nifty players,” Wild forward Marcus Foligno said. “They just beat Columbus too so they’re feeling good about themselves. We have to make sure we close it out going into the break.”
The Wild are close to full health, but have been playing without forward Nino Niederreiter, who has a lower-body ailment. They have a five-day break coming after the Vancouver game, but are trying to guard against looking ahead to the forthcoming rest and relaxation.
“I think we’re still hungry. This is a big one,” said Wild defenseman Matt Dumba, who had his second multi-goal game of the season versus Winnipeg. “We’re going to treat it like a huge game (Sunday) going into our break. We’ll be satisfied if we get the win.”
It will be the second of three meetings this season. Vancover blanked Minnesota 1-0 in St. Paul on Oct. 24.