Fight For First In Northwest; Zucker Returns

The Minnesota Wild sits atop the tightly packed Northwest Division and will face another test tonight as the club skates against the team right behind them in the standings, the Vancouver Canucks. The Wild and Canucks are tied in points, with 32 apiece, but Minnesota currently owns the tiebreaker with more regulation/overtime wins. Both teams also have an equal amount of games played with 27.

With only 21 games in the season remaining, calling the final meeting on the year between these two teams a big game is an understatement. Vancouver owns a 2-1 season series lead, but the Wild won the most recent match at Xcel Energy Center in convincing fashion, 4-2, just over a week ago.

After the Wild’s morning skate, Head Coach Mike Yeo said that down the stretch every game is important, but with the club rolling right now you have to think that this is could be a statement game against its bitter rival. Yeo’s full media availability is on WildTV.

Jason Zucker will return to the lineup tonight, replacing Mike Rupp. Zucker will be slotted on the fourth line with Zenon Konopka and Torrey Mitchell. The rookie talked to WildTV about tonight’s game and getting back in the lineup. That video will be available shortly.

Niklas Backstrom will get the start in goal for the Wild. Lifetime against Vancouver, Backstrom is 12-13-6 with a 2.68 goals against average, a .905 save percentage and one shutout in 32 games (30 starts).

The Wild will face Roberto Luongo in net tonight. He gave up five goals against the Red Wings in the team’s last outing on Saturday, but has faired well against the Wild in Rogers Arena of late, allowing only one goal in his four last games against Minnesota.

WildTV also caught up with Zach Parise and he talked about the importance of tonight’s contest and the team’s recent success.

Kyle Brodziak also spoke with WildTV, with that video coming shortly.

The game will broadcast on FOX Sports North Plus at 9 p.m. State of Hockey Time. A complete listing of the channel guide can be found, here.

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