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National Hockey League

Playoff Schedule | Scoreboard | Scores - Previous | Standings - East | Standings - West

(7) Minnesota Wild (0-0) at (4) Vancouver Canucks, 10:30 p.m.


(Sports Network) - Two clubs who advanced on resilience clash tonight when the
Vancouver Canucks host the Minnesota Wild in Game 1 of their Western
Conference semifinal series at GM Place.

The matchup pits the league's second-highest scoring team, the Canucks,
against a defensive machine in the Wild, who placed fourth in the NHL in

Both teams rebounded from 3-1 series deficits to win their first-round set in
seven games, Vancouver against St. Louis and Minnesota versus Colorado. The
Wild shocked the Avs by winning three games in Denver during the course of the

Surprisingly, what ultimately allowed the Wild to come back was the
goaltending edge they held against the Avs, who were let down by the great
Patrick Roy. Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire utilized his two-headed backstop
system perfectly, getting what he could out of Dwayne Roloson before turning
to Manny Fernandez during Game 4. Fernandez stopped 91 of the 97 shots he
faced in three starts, including a 43-save effort in the 3-2 Game 7 overtime

Of course, the goaltenders wouldn't be where they are if it wasn't for the
help they receive in front of them. Lemaire's sometimes tedious defensive
system, which won him a Cup in New Jersey, isn't always fun to watch but it
wins hockey games. Every player on the ice has his responsibility and when
that mentality is adhered to, it's tough to crack.

Lemaire's crew did a very fine job limiting the effectiveness of the
Avalanche's vaunted top line in the latter part of the series. Peter
Forsberg's goal in Game 7 was the lone marker accounted for by the trio, which
also includes Milan Hejduk and Alex Tanguay, in the final four games.

Minnesota will have another tall task this round, facing the high-powered
Canucks unit of Markus Naslund, Todd Bertuzzi and Brendan Morrison. Center Wes
Walz, who helped contain Forsberg and Co., will have the responsibility again,
but the Wild do lack a beefy defenseman among their regulars to lock horns
with the 235-pound Bertuzzi

Offensively, young Minnesota star Marian Gaborik awoke after struggling in the
second half of the regular season. The multi-faceted winger led the team with
four goals in the series, including the equalizer late in Game 7. Andrew
Brunette tallied three times, including the series-clincher in OT.

The Canucks, meanwhile, scored a meager four goals in as many games to start
their series with the banged-up Blues, before Naslund, Bertuzzi and Morrison
got back to doing what they do best -- torment the opposition. The trio
combined for six goals in the final three tilts, thus providing the spearhead
of the team's attack we've become so accustomed to. Naslund led the way with
four goals -- one in each of the last four games.

Joining the team's big guns in turning around the set was goaltender Dan
Cloutier, who proved doubters wrong with his first playoff series victory.
Cloutier settled down after some early trouble and outplayed former
Stanley Cup winner Chris Osgood in the latter part. He was by no means
spectacular, but did what was needed against a team that has its share of

Back on defense, the Canucks will need a better overall series from Ed
Jovanovski, who was minus-4 in the first four games against the Blues. He did
rebound with a plus-3 rating the rest of the way and scored the eventual game-
winner in Game 6.

Vancouver and Minnesota went 2-2-1 against each other this campaign, but
haven't played since January 28. Naslund scored three goals with five assists
against the Wild in the season series, while Gaborik posted five tallies and
four helpers versus the Canucks.

Game 2 will be played Sunday night at GM Place.

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