Canucks-Wild Preview

The Minnesota Wild have not been playing up to the preseason

hype or their potential.

In this lockout-shortened season, the time for a turnaround is


Winless in four road games this season, the Wild (4-4-1) return

home to face the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday night. Seven of

their next nine games are against Northwest Division teams, and the

48-game season is about 20 percent gone.

So at practice on Wednesday, coach Mike Yeo shuffled his forward

groups again.

Dany Heatley was taken off the first line to skate with center

Matt Cullen and Pierre-Marc Bouchard. Rookie Charlie Coyle replaced

Heatley, joining center Mikko Koivu and star Zach Parise.

“I wouldn’t say it was unexpected,” said Heatley, who has no

points in his past four games after tallying four goals and two

assists in the first five. “I’m playing with two real creative

guys, so hopefully we can get something going.”

Devin Setoguchi and Mikael Granlund rotated spots on the third

line with center Kyle Brodziak and Cal Clutterbuck. New acquisition

Mike Rupp was on the fourth line with Torrey Mitchell and Zenon


Rupp, who came in a trade with the New York Rangers, will make

his Wild debut against the Canucks.

“I’m just a complementary guy. There are a lot of good things

going here,” Rupp said. “This team is headed in the right

direction. I’m excited to be a part of it and contribute in any

way. Obviously, my game is to play physical. I’m going to try to

come in here and help this team win hockey games any way I


By calling up Coyle, trading Darroll Powe for Rupp and demoting

Setoguchi and Granlund from the second line, the Wild have shown

they’re not willing to simply wait for one of the deepest groups of

forwards the franchise has had to produce.

From owner Craig Leipold to general manager Chuck Fletcher to

Yeo and his staff, there’s a demand of success that’s hanging

heavier over this team than before.

“Normally we’ve played nine games and you have more time to sort

things out, but you don’t have as much time,” Yeo said. “So

certainly it magnifies things. We just have to make sure that we’re

doing whatever we can to find the best mix to put the best product

on the ice.”

The Wild have scored only 21 goals in nine games – including one

in each of their last two, losses at Anaheim and Phoenix.

The Canucks, meanwhile, arrive in St. Paul riding a three-game

winning streak. They’ve allowed just three goals during that

stretch, entirely with Roberto Luongo in net.

Cory Schneider, the starter to begin the season with Luongo the

subject of trade talks, will return to the crease Thursday.

Schneider has a 3.13 goals-against average in four starts compared

to Luongo’s 1.53 GAA in six appearances.

“I’m really excited,” Schneider said. “Lu’s done his job, and

now it’s my turn to jump in and try to keep that going. You never

want to be the guy that halts the momentum.”

Vancouver (5-2-2) kept it going in overtime Monday in Edmonton,

beating the Oilers 3-2. Kevin Bieksa tied the score late in

regulation, then Luongo stopped Taylor Hall’s penalty shot in the

extra period before Chris Tanev scored his first NHL goal with 20

seconds left in OT.

The Canucks should face another challenge in Minnesota, where

they’ve yielded five goals or more four times while losing six of

their last eight visits.