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Looking up in a down world...

Brace Hemmelgarn-US PRESSWIRE

With tomorrow's opponent being a team from a place that calls itself "The State Of Hockey", you know that things are going to be fun. That would be the idea, anyhow. But, no matter how hard we try in Lotusland to build up some enmity towards the Minnesota Wild, it just turns out kind of "meh".

That's no offense intended towards the fine hockey fans of that border state. Their maniacal devotion to our game is well noted and admired from my point of view. It might even make them honorary Canadians! Its just that, the Canucks' dance card is too full. Hell, we have a couple of Alberta teams, those folks from Illinois ( yeah, we developed a rivalry with what was once the North Stars biggest rival. Sorry 'bout that ), and another team that was just so easily dislikable. When it is in The Final, that happens. You understand I am sure, you betcha right?

There's a few teams from California that all seem to dislike our particular hockey club, ones that it seems, from a long time observer of the Canucks and their fans like me, to engender far more return "fire". It just happened Wilders ( is that what we call you? Wild Nation seems a bit weird. ).

Or, perhaps its because the Canucks should have won that playoff series by all accounts, and let the Wild just come all the way back. Hell, I "think" the year was 2003, vaguely, but I refuse to look it up to confirm it. Its just better to take painful negative things and excise them from your memory when it comes to sports fandom. There is "always next year". So, take heart fans of the next opponent. Maybe you just wounded us so deeply then, that we have all repressed things like Todd Bertuzzi running his yap and stuff. I really can't recall right now...

BTW - Before we get to the numbers, I would just like to point out the "positive" article from, of all people, noted Oilers fan Marc Spector on the Canucks goaltending tandem. Contrast that with the almost non stop attempts of TSN to make it seem like a "controversy" is rampant ( and the Eastern members of the "HockeyCentral" SNET team too. Kypreos has Luongo all but immovable because of his contract, and MacLean says that Vancouver "may have to take one or TWO "bad contracts" back...wowzers huh? Check out the stirring of the pot by them today here. Stay until the end, where Kypreos calls "Luongo's contract the most immovable in the history of the game!!!!" L-O-freaking ell) Its amazing how they can fill the minutes on that just because of this somewhat more balanced newspaper article. Not judging any of them. Just noting how different some of the POV's are. Moving on...

4 - Thats the age that Minnesota native Jordan Schroeder was when he started playing hockey. He was "immediately moved up", according to his Wiki. I am hopeful that he has "one of those games" in his first game at "home". It would be a positive story. No pressure though. He has already shown he can play the NHL game since his debut at both ends of the ice. Also, lets not forget, Schredder is the record holder of assists and points for America in World Juniors play. Thats a lot of years and a lot of players. ( for some perspective, it was Jeremy Roenick's record before ) Good luck at home young man.

4 - Is also the number of points that Ryan Kesler, Alexandre Burrows, and one Manny Malhotra had in 6 games versus the Wild last year. Of course, the high number guys are the Sedins, with Daniel having 3 goals and 7 assists, and Henrik Sedin clocking in with 2 goals and 5 assists . Here's the list here. Even Jannik Hansen had 2 goals against this opponent. With Burrows back with the Twins, their recent success at getting scoring out of the entire line up is heartening. Thats how they went 4-2 against the Wild, even while going 1-2 in the Excel Energy Center. Depth.

8 - Is the total of game winning goals that Daniel Sedin and his older brother have against the Wild ( and its also the number of minutes by which Henrik is older ), with them having 4 each. Interestingly, 3 of those came last year, with mom's favorite tallying 2 GWG's versus what might be ( without checking ) the only team name in NHL history that is also primarily an adjective. They seem to like playing these guys too, as Henrik has 9 goals and 46 assists in 68 games, and Daniel checks in at 18 goals and 34 assists in 64 games. I wonder how many times while writing these things I'll be pointing to the Twins as the leading scorers versus a team...

36 - The jersey number of maybe the hardest worker so far this season. Jannik Hansen must skate farther and faster every game than only a very few in the NHL, so noticeable has been his work ethic. Add to that the fact that he is starting to produce offensively at about point every half game pace ( 1 goal and 4 assists in 9 games this season, while having 3 goals and 6 assists in 18 games versus the Gene Wilder's namesakes ), and its no mistake that he is earning that increase in ice time right now. Hansen is averaging 17:36 TOI so far this year.

.920 - That is Cory Schneider's save percentage against the Minnesota team last year, in 4 starts. He went 2 and 2 while giving up 10 total goals on 125 shots. That aint bad. But Roberto Luongo went 2-0 and has a 1.000% against them in 2 starts last year. Mind you, those were both games at home. I think he is something like an .873 lifetime at the EEC. We'll see how the decision is made this time, but if I was a betting man, I might go with a change in net. No offense to @strombone1 .He has to get back in the net sometime.

Relatively Ancient Canuck Numbers

10 and 9 - Those are the two numbers worn by Don Lever ( he wore the former for only his first of almost eight season as a Canuck ), the 3rd overall pick in the 1972 draft, after the Islanders took Bill Harris and the Atlanta Flames took Jacques Richard. He did better than both of those guys ( check the link here and click on the names for their stats ), but of course long time Canuck fans will point to the fact that Stephen Shutt went 4th overall that year. Mind you, he wouldn't have had Lemaire and Lafleur to play with here either!

Lever scored 186 of his 313 career total of goals for the Vancouver team. He was the 4th captain in team history. He was also over 20 goals in six of those almost eight seasons, and had 38 goals and 68 points in 1974/75. My favorite part of his Wiki is right off the top. I never called him "Cleaver" myself, but maybe that is lost in the mists of time for me. He was traded in Feb. of 1980 to the Atlanta Flames in a deal that brought back both Ivan Boldirev and Darcy Rota. In addition to all of that, he scored the first goal in NJ Devils history and had a long and still ongoing coaching career with teams like the Sabres and the Habs. Plus, he was part of this unintentionally sometimes hilarious piece of audio from 1975. ( the "rage of South Porcupine Ontario..." ) I still am not sure on the narrator though. I'm guessing Tom Bosley. You?