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GAME DAY PREVIEW: Vancouver Canucks @ Minnesota Wild - Oct. 24/17

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Could the Canucks actually come out of this trip 4-1?

NHL: Vancouver Canucks at Minnesota Wild
Mar 25, 2017; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Vancouver Canucks forward Brock Boeser (6) against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center. The Canucks defeated the Wild 4-2. 
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Vancouver Canucks vs. Minnesota Wild

5:00 p.m. PST, Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul, Minnesota

TV: Sportsnet Vancouver Hockey Radio: SN 650

Last season when the Vancouver Canucks hit the road for the first time, their season kind of, well, fell apart.

After starting 4-0 on home ice during a four-game mirage, the following road trip spurred a nine-game losing streak that showed the club’s true colours.

Not so much this time around for the boys in blue and green. They’ve gone 3-1 and have looked downright impressive if not for a horrid penalty kill against the Boston Bruins.

Now, they go in to face the Minnesota Wild who have been hit hard by some early injuries. Brock Boeser also returns to his home state where he scored his first NHL goal.

Jeff Paterson was saying on TSN 1040 this morning that not everyone in the Boeser clan was able to make it for his first NHL game because of the quickness of events that unravelled before that game. This time around, he should have a full house on hand.

Dare I say, Boeser magic could strike again?

The Opponent

This game represents the battle of two of the top snipers in the NHL, and we aren’t talking about rookie sensations Boeser and Joel Eriksson Ek.

No, we’re talking about Derek Dorsett and Chris Stewart.

Dorsett’s amazing start to the season has been well-documented thus far, but Minnesota also has a surprising bottom-six winger lighting the lamp.

Stewart leads the Wild in scoring this season with six goals and eight points through the first six games. He’s been playing on the Wild’s de facto first line with Jason Zucker and Mikko Koivu.

In the great words on John Tortorella, Stewart leading the Wild in goals is good for Stewart, but not so good for the Wild.

This team is currently missing some key cogs in their top-six, including Zach Parise, Nino Niederreiter and Charlie Coyle.

The good news for this team is that Mikael Granlund should return to the lineup tonight after missing the last five games with a groin injury. Granlund lit up the Canucks with three goals and an assist during a dreary February game last season.

The Canucks

Vancouver has beat up on some bad teams on this road trip. Then again, the Canucks themselves were supposed to be a bad team.

Instead, the Buffalo Sabres and the Detroit Red Wings made the Canucks look like a Stanley Cup contender.

The Canucks outshot those teams 78-43 over those two games, and that’s not including two straight third periods where they sat back with a lead. It was a dominating performance that gave the Canucks great hope about their young players.

Midway through the Boston beatdown, Travis Green reunited Bo Horvat, Sven Baertschi and Boeser on the Canucks first line. They’ve looked great as a line over the last two and a half games, especially against Detroit.

Unlike in the past, Horvat and Baertschi had their head above water in possession, and that line has a Corsi above 60% this season. Horvat, who was criticized for not using his teammates enough, had a couple of great assists in the game.

The other great story to come out of this road trip is the addition of the newest triplet, Jake Virtanen. The pride of Abbotsford had his best game as an NHLer against the Red Wings, scoring his first goal of the season and ending up with eight shots, and three high-danger scoring chances.

Virtanen and the twins have the best scoring chance differential on the team early in the season. Green’s deployment of the players is working to perfection thus far. He needs to keep it up to see if they can be successful, before other teams start catching on.

The other thing to note about the home team (tell me if this sounds familiar) is that Troy Stecher is out 4-6 weeks with a knee injury. Alex Biega should draw into the lineup against the Wild.

Game Day Battle Hymn

With the road trip coming to an end, the Canucks will look to complete their surprisingly successful road trip against a Wild team missing some key players.

Get jacked up about Boeser’s return to his home state with Last of the Wilds, from Nightwish. The powerful instrumental comes off Dark Passion Play, their first album to make the North American charts, after they topped the charts in Finland, Germany, and Sweden for years.

Speaking of the Fins, tonight would be a good night for Markus Granlund to exact some revenge on his brother after he lit up the Canucks last season. To Markus’ benefit, he is playing on the same line as Canucks leading scorer Dorsett.