3 Keys: Wild vs. Canucks, Game 1 of Cup Qualifiers

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No. 10 Wild vs. No. 7 Canucks

10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN, FS-N, FS-WI

The Minnesota Wild and Vancouver Canucks will begin their best-of-5 series in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers at Rogers Place in Edmonton on Sunday.

The Wild won two of three regular-season games against the Canucks, with defenseman Brad Hunt (one goal, two assists) and forwards Kevin Fiala (two goals, one assist) and Luke Kunin (one goal, two assists) leading them with three points each. Forward J.T. Miller led Vancouver with five points (three goals, two assists).

The Wild are looking to return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs after failing to qualify last season for the first time since 2012. The Canucks haven’t made the playoffs since 2015.

There hasn’t been a best-of-5 series in the NHL since 1986. The League used them for the preliminary round of the playoffs from 1980-86, and the team that won Game 1 went on to win the series 87.5 percent of the time (49 of 56).

Here are 3 keys for Game 1:

 

1. Minnesota’s goaltending

Although it remains to be seen whether Alex Stalock or Devan Dubnyk will start, the Wild are confident in each goalie. 

Stalock started and allowed three goals on 17 shots in 30:22 in a 3-2 loss to the Colorado Avalanche in an exhibition game Wednesday. Dubnyk made 12 saves in 27:35 in relief.

“We got depth at the position in the organization,” Stalock said after the game. “It’s a battle for the job. We both want to be in there, but either one of us will give the team the chance to win.”

 

2. Markstrom

Jacob Markstrom has played 272 regular-season NHL games but has yet to make his postseason debut.

Markstrom made 30 saves on 33 shots for the Canucks in a 4-1 exhibition loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Wednesday, his first game since he underwent a minor lower-body procedure Feb. 26. He missed the last eight games before the NHL season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus.

“He wants to win as bad as anyone else,” coach Travis Green said. “We’ve got a lot of belief in him. He’s fine. He’s going to be great [Sunday].”

 

3. Postseason experience

In addition to Markstrom, defenseman Quinn Hughes and forwards Brock Boeser and Elias Pettersson are among the Vancouver players who have never played in an NHL postseason game. Captain Bo Horvat hasn’t played in the postseason since 2015, when he was a rookie and scored four points (one goal, three assists) in six games.

Still, the Canucks have 499 games of postseason experience, including from forwards Jay Beagle (Washington Capitals), Tyler Toffoli (Los Angeles Kings) and Tanner Pearson (Kings), who have each previously won the Stanley Cup. 

The Wild have 623 games of postseason experience led by forward Zach Parise (97) and Eric Staal (58), who is the only player on Minnesota to have won the Cup (with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006).

“When you start getting to an older age in this league, you’re running low on the opportunities. You’ve got to take advantage when the get the chance to,” said Parise, who is 36. “… The motivation is high regardless (if you’re a rookie or veteran).”

 

Wild projected lineup

Jordan Greenway — Eric Staal — Kevin Fiala

Zach Parise — Joel Eriksson Ek — Luke Kunin

Marcus FolignoAlex GalchenyukMats Zuccarello

Ryan DonatoMikko KoivuRyan Hartman

Ryan SuterJared Spurgeon

Jonas BrodinMatt Dumba

Brad Hunt — Carson Soucy

Alex Stalock

Devan Dubnyk

Scratched: Matt Bartkowski, Louie Belpedio, Luke Johnson, Kaapo Kahkonen, Gerald Mayhew, Brennan Menell, Victor Rask, Kyle Rau, Mat Robson, Nico Sturm

Unfit to play: Greg Pateryn

 

Canucks projected lineup

J.T. Miller — Elias Pettersson — Tyler Toffoli

Tanner Pearson — Bo Horvat — Brock Boeser

Antoine RousselAdam GaudetteMicheal Ferland

Tyler Motte — Jay Beagle — Brandon Sutter 

Quinn Hughes — Christopher Tanev

Alexander EdlerTroy Stecher

Oscar FantenbergTyler Myers

Jacob Markstrom

Thatcher Demko

Scratched: Justin Bailey, Jordie Benn, Jalen Chatfield, Louis Domingue, Loui Eriksson, Tyler Graovac, Olli Juolevi, Zack MacEwen, Brogan Rafferty, Jake Virtanen

Unfit to play: Josh Leivo

Status report: The Wild are expected to dress the same 20 players as they did in their exhibition game Wednesday. … MacEwan, who played a team-low 5:15 and was the extra forward for the Canucks in their exhibition game Wednesday, likely will be scratched.

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