Wild Monday: First place on the line

MONDAY’S STORYLINES: The battle for the Northwest Division lead continues tonight in Vancouver as the Wild take on the Canucks. The winner of tonight’s game will take sole possession of first place. The Wild currently hold the lead.

“It is huge right now. It is the biggest game of the year,” said forward Kyle Brodziak.

Vancouver notoriously hasn’t been a friendly place for Minnesota, the Wild are 0-9-2 in their last 11 games in Vancouver and they know they will have a challenge tonight. In the team’s last meeting in Vancouver on February 12 the Wild played well, but lost 2-1.

It can be argued the Wild are a very different team than the one that took the ice that night. The team that is taking the ice tonight is more confident one that believes they can win any game. Minnesota is 9-4-1 since the teams’ last meeting in Vancouver.

“We are playing with a lot more confidence there is a lot more confidence in the room,” said forward Zach Parise. “Our mentality and our approach has changed where it is more we come into game expecting to win now as opposed to kind of going into the first period and seeing how it goes, but now we are playing with more authority and you can tell we just have more confidence up and down the rink it is a lot of fun.”

Part of authority is establishing themselves early in the game and having a consistent effort for a full 60 minutes. The Wild have scored first in their last seven games and are 5-2-0 over that time span. Mike Yeo knows getting out hot is important.

“We have to be ready to start. What is most important to me is playing complete games and the start is huge part of that,” Yeo said. The other part of that story is we have been able to stay with it the rest of the game and getting a first goal is nice but what we have been really stressing here is that making sure we score first they score first, who we are playing where we are playing that we go out and play the same way shift after shift.”

The Wild are also a more complete team than the one that took the ice in Vancouver on February 12. They are getting contributions from all four lines, something that has been a key to their recent success. In the last four games Minnesota has scored 16 goals, those goals have come from 11 different goal scorers.

“It is huge hopefully it takes some pressure off our big lines, they have been going very solid for us all year long. It is a lot of pressure if they don’t have any help. The third and fourth lines feel like we are starting to play well and start to be able to create some things. Hopefully we can continue that and keep the pressure off those guys,” added Brodziak.

RUPP OUT: Mike Rupp (Lower Body) is out of the lineup tonight. Jason Zucker will be back in the lineup.

POWERLESS CANUCKS: Vancouver is 0-30 on the power play in their last 11 games.

STRONG PENALTY KILL: The Wild have only allowed three power play goals in 34 opportunities over the last 13 games.

BACKSTROM BACK IN NET: Niklas Backstrom, who is 10-3-1 in his last 14 starts, will get the nod.

HE SAID IT: “It is unbelievable you stress yourself out sometimes. You go from third all the way to ninth all the way overnight without and you don’t even play. I haven’t seen anything like that. There is usually more separation in the East but now I understand it.”  — Parise on the tight race in the West.