After getting a big game from Grabner and securing a playoff spot, the Canucks look to clinch the Northwest Division title as they host the Minnesota Wild on Sunday night.
Vancouver (47-27-4) has high hopes for Grabner, its 2006 first-round pick, but his effort had not been resulting in goals as the team tried to shore up its playoff position. In his first seven games after being recalled from Manitoba of the AHL, he did not score despite taking 19 shots on goal.
On Friday night, though, Grabner had a hat trick as the Canucks clinched a postseason berth with a 5-4 shootout win over Anaheim. Vancouver needs one point to secure its third Northwest crown in four seasons.
The Canucks are happy with the progress Grabner is making while playing on the second line.
“The kid’s got a lot of skills,” coach Alain Vigneault said. “Sometimes those things just happen. He stayed after it in some tough situations out there and made it happen.”
Grabner hadn’t recorded a goal since Oct. 25.
“It shows the work I’m doing with our skills coach is paying off,” Grabner said. “I’d missed a lot of nets.”
The Canucks have had six hat tricks, the most in a season in franchise history.
Vancouver has scored four goals in three of its last five games. The Canucks’ goaltending, however, needs to be sharper with the playoffs approaching.
Vancouver has four games remaining to get Roberto Luongo(notes) back on track. Andrew Raycroft(notes) struggled Friday in place of Luongo, who gave up eight goals in an 8-3 loss at Los Angeles on Thursday night.
Luongo has gone 7-6-1 with a 3.58 goals-against average over his last 14 games. He gave up five goals in each of his last two contests against the Wild (37-35-6).
Luongo, though, was strong in his last home game, stopping 32 shots in a 4-1 win over Phoenix on Tuesday night.
Three of Vancouver’s last four games are at General Motors Place, where it is 28-8-2.
Minnesota is opening a three-game trip after being eliminated from playoff contention Friday night, losing 3-2 to San Jose. The Wild have missed the playoffs for the second straight season after winning the Northwest in 2007-08.
“The writing was kind of on the wall, but it’s never fun playing these games when you’re mathematically eliminated,” forward Andrew Brunette(notes) said. “We’ll have to find a different kind of motivation and end the year on the right note.”
He was held off the scoresheet in five of his last seven games against the Canucks.
Vancouver leads the season series 3-2-0.