Wild-Canucks Preview

The Associated Press

It appears all the Vancouver Canucks needed was a few weeks off to regroup.

The Minnesota Wild didn't miss a beat during the layoff.

Ryan Kesler could be back as the Canucks try to build on their first win in a month Friday night against the visiting Wild.

After dropping its final seven games before the Olympic break, Vancouver (28-24-9) pulled out a 1-0 win over St. Louis in its first game back Wednesday. Jannik Hansen scored 11:13 into the third period and rookie Eddie Lack made 20 saves for his third shutout.

The Canucks hadn't tasted victory since beating Phoenix 5-4 in overtime Jan. 26.

"It feels very good to be able to shut the door. It was very big for our team. It's a big relief," said Lack, who improved to 4-1-2 with a 1.90 goals-against average at home. "I feel like I have been working on this start for a while and I was really excited to play. And, (goalie coach Rollie Melanson) has been bugging me for weeks saying we need to win these 1-0 games, so it's huge."

The Canucks are hoping to get a boost from Kesler as they try to make it two in a row. Kesler, leading the team with 20 goals, was sidelined Wednesday due to a hand injury suffered in Sochi.

"It's making progress," said Kesler, who denied rumors that he asked out of Vancouver. "You always hope to play, I always want to play. I didn't want to sit out last game, but I think the couple extra days of rest helped.

"We have 21 games to make the playoffs, and that's what the focus should be on."

The Canucks are one of five teams in the mix for the Western Conference's second wild-card spot. Their 65 points are six behind wild card-leading Minnesota (32-21-7).

"You don't have to look at the standings very long to see we need to win a lot of games here to make the playoffs," Hansen said. "These are the teams you have to beat. We can't just beat the teams below us."

The Wild are seeking a season high-tying fourth consecutive victory after winning 3-0 at Edmonton on Thursday. Mikael Granlund, Dany Heatley and Stephane Veilleux all scored while Darcy Kuemper made 21 saves for his second shutout.

"We did a real good job, we were aware of the situation and everyone was focused tonight," said Kuemper, whose team improved to 12-4-2 in 2014. "It was just a solid team game tonight. We had seven days of practice. You just use the first two practices to get the fundamentals back and then you worry about the next game. I stuck to my game and obviously the team played great in front of me."

Kuemper has won a career-high three straight starts while posting a 0.99 GAA. He stopped 28 shots in a 2-1 road loss to the Canucks last Feb. 12, his only appearance in the series.

The Wild have taken three straight from Vancouver, including a 3-2 shootout win on Dec. 17, in this season's only meeting. Zach Parise and Charlie Coyle scored while captain Mikko Koivu notched two assists.

There's a chance Koivu could return Friday after missing the last 16 games with a fractured ankle.

Minnesota had dropped 11 straight in Vancouver by a combined 40-15 score before winning 3-1 during its last visit March 18.

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