Canucks-Wild Preview

The Associated Press

The Vancouver Canucks have regained their touch on the power play just in time to make a late run at first place in the Western Conference.

The Canucks will try to get closer in that race by continuing their recent mastery of the fading Minnesota Wild on Monday night at Xcel Energy Center.

Vancouver (43-20-8) has scored a pair of power-play goals in each of its past two games, using two tallies to earn only its fourth point in six contests with Saturday's 4-3 win over Columbus.

"When you score a (power-play) goal or two, you get confidence," said Daniel Sedin, who ended a personal nine-game drought with two goals - including the winner on the man advantage with just under five minutes left in the game.

Before those two games, the Canucks endured a 1-for-24 slump on the power play. Through 29 games this season, Vancouver was converting at a 26.4 percent rate - 4.7 better than any other team - and it was at 23.8 percent over its first 47 contests.

Since Jan. 18, the Canucks have had one of the league's worst conversion rates at 15.0 percent (9 for 60).

"There's not a lot of changes in our power play lately," Sedin said. "It's just a matter of passes being there, shooting the puck and finding rebounds. It's little things."

Vancouver will try to continue its recent success while attempting to make up a six-point deficit on St. Louis in the West. The Canucks have two games in hand on the Blues.

Vancouver has sizable leads in the Northwest Division and in the race for the one of the conference's top two seeds. The short-handed Wild (29-32-10), meanwhile, are all but out of postseason contention.

Minnesota, 1-7-1 in its last nine, blew a two-goal lead during its third straight defeat, 5-3 to Carolina on Saturday. The Wild gave up four unanswered goals during the final 22:46.

"The message is pretty simple," coach Mike Yeo said. "We all have to hate losing a lot more than we do. You can never accept this. I don't care who we've got out of the lineup, you cannot accept this. ... We're in hell. It's not fun."

Yeo's top goaltender, Niklas Backstrom, is dealing with a groin injury that could keep him out for the rest of the season, while captain Mikko Koivu (upper body) has returned to practice but remains day-to-day. Guillaume Latendresse and Pierre-Marc Bouchard are out with concussions.

Even when healthier, the Wild have had trouble with the Canucks with seven losses in the past eight matchups. A 5-2 home defeat Feb. 9 was their third in a row in the series, but they earned the lone win in that eight-game stretch 5-1 on Nov. 3 in St. Paul behind two goals and an assist from Matt Cullen.

Cullen might have some trouble duplicating that performance if the Canucks start Cory Schneider, who is 9-1-1 with a 2.07 goals-against average in his last 11 appearances. One of those wins came last month in Minnesota.

Vancouver starter Roberto Luongo has a 5.28 GAA over his last four games but has recorded three consecutive shutouts against the Wild. The last goaltender to record four straight over one team was Dominik Hasek against the New York Rangers from Dec. 21, 1997-Oct. 27, 1998.

Schneider is 5-2-0 with a 2.16 GAA in eight all-time games against Minnesota.

Daniel Sedin will try to extend a seven-game point streak against the Wild. He's tallied four goals and nine assists during that run.

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