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Canucks Game Day: A chance tonight to dust off Wild, clinch real playoff spot

 Antoine Roussel of the Vancouver Canucks collides with netminder Alex Stalock of the Minnesota Wild during Thursday’s NHL action in Edmonton.
Antoine Roussel of the Vancouver Canucks collides with netminder Alex Stalock of the Minnesota Wild during Thursday’s NHL action in Edmonton.

NEXT GAME

Tonight | Game 4

Minnesota Wild vs. Vancouver Canucks

7:45 p.m., Rogers Place (Edmonton), TV: Sportsnet; Radio: Sportsnet 650 AM

THE BIG MATCHUP

Ryan Hartman vs. Elias Pettersson

In Game 2 of this series, Pettersson gave Hartman a push and the Wild winger fell to the ice like a sack of bricks. It seemed he might have injured himself in the process, but he was good to go for practice the next day and then, of course, in Game 3. He’s a classic hockey rat, a player type as old as hockey itself. He tried to take a blindside run at Pettersson in Game 3, but the Canucks’ young star lost his footing and was in a far more vulnerable spot when Hartman arrived with little care for safety. Pettersson escaped the encounter unscathed. Will there be a third “meeting” tonight?

FIVE KEYS TO THE GAME

1. Defensive strength

Jacob Markstrom posted a shutout on Thursday, but gave the credit to his teammates. “Team shutout,” he said.

The Canucks haven’t been defensive dynamos — in fact, it’s the Wild who are known as the specialists in suffocating opposing offences — but they have been in this post-season.

2. Power-play prowess

There were 22 penalties called Thursday, which made for plenty of power-play practice.

The Canucks scored two goals, while the Wild haven’t scored with the man advantage since Game 1. Some of that may be because they’re still using two defencemen on each unit. Their defencemen may be some of the league’s best, but they’re still not as good shooters as their forwards are.

3. More Boes mode

The sniper Brock Boeser is thriving back on Pettersson’s wing. He’s been everywhere, backchecking, forechecking, scoring goals in dirty areas. He’s smiling and having an awesome time playing hockey. That’s great news for the Canucks.

4. Crease crashing

In the first two games of this series the Canucks didn’t have a whole lot of success finding chances on top of the Wild crease. That’s long been a focus for their offence and they were pretty good at it this season. On Thursday, they got 10 high-danger chances according to NaturalStatTrick.com. The Wild managed 11, which is keeping with what they’ve managed to do offensively this series. But, of course, they keep running into Markstrom, who was dominant Thursday and has improved with each game.

5. Back-to-back tilts

It’s never easy for a goalie to start two games back-to-back. In general, the numbers have told us that it’s generally a good idea to split your starters over two games if you’re playing on consecutive days. Goalies just need more time to recover. It’s science. That being said, with Thursday’s game a matinee and Friday’s game another late-evening start, that is a little more rest and recovery time for both starting goalies. You assume the starters will be the same, but might Wild coach Dean Evason be tempted to go with veteran Devan Dubnyk, who has been Alex Stalock’s backup this series?

CANUCKS LINEUP

Forwards

J.T. Miller — Elias Pettersson — Brock Boeser

Tanner Pearson — Bo Horvat — Loui Eriksson

Antoine Roussel — Brandon Sutter — Jake Virtanen

Tyler Motte — Jay Beagle — Zack MacEwen

Defence pairings

Alex Edler — Tyler Myers

Quinn Hughes — Chris Tanev

Oscar Fantenberg — Troy Stecher

Goalies : Jacob Markstrom, Thatcher Demko

WILD LINEUP

Forwards

Zach Parise — Eric Staal — Kevin Fiala

Mats Zuccarello — Alex Galchenyuk — Luke Kunin

Jordan Greenway — Joel Eriksson Ek — Marcus Foligno

Nico Sturm — Mikko Koivu — Ryan Hartman

Defence pairings

Ryan Suter — Jared Spurgeon

Jonas Brodin — Matt Dumba

Carson Soucy — Brad Hunt

Goalies : Alex Stalock, Devan Dubnyk

SICK BAY

Canucks: Josh Leivo (fractured knee cap), Micheal Ferland (concussion symptoms), Tyler Toffoli (foot).

Wild: Greg Pateryn (upper body).

SPECIAL TEAMS

Power play

Canucks: 20% (13th)

Wild: 11.8% (17th)

Penalty kill

Canucks: 88.2% (6th)

Wild: 80% (12th)

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