Vancouver Canucks vs. Minnesota Wild Pick & Prediction DECEMBER 7th 2023

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The Minnesota Wild will try to continue their impressive turnaround under new coach John Hynes when they visit the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday night. The Wild had lost seven straight when Dean Evason was fired on Nov. 27 and replaced by Hynes. They’re 4-0-0 since, outscoring their opponents 18-5. The 4-0-0 debut ties John Torchetti (2016) for the best start by a Minnesota coach in team history. “It’s a kick in the butt when you get a coach fired,” Minnesota forward Marcus Foligno said. Minnesota most recently steamrolled the Calgary Flames 5-2 in the opener of its four-game trip. Wild left wing Matt Boldy, who did not score a goal in the first 10 games of November, has four goals and an assist in the past four games. Though the Wild’s penalty-kill percentage (71.1) was still tied for last in the NHL entering Wednesday, the unit has erased 13 of 14 power plays since Hynes took over. “Give a lot of credit to John — he’s come in and just established what he wants us to do and play like, and it’s a lot faster and our breaking out is a lot better than it has been,” Foligno said. “It’s on us too. Guys are snapping the puck around and it’s tape-to-tape. It’s a lot easier when you play like that.” Mats Zuccarello had an assist to stretch his point streak to 10 games (three goals, 11 assists). He’s the first player in Wild history to have three different point streaks of at least 10 games. Vancouver, on the other hand, hasn’t won two in a row since the middle of last month. The Canucks came close Tuesday night, rallying from a three-goal deficit to start the third period against the visiting New Jersey Devils to tie the score, but they eventually lost 6-5 when Jesper Bratt scored with 34 seconds left. “It’s terrible to lose a game like that,” Vancouver defenseman Quinn Hughes said. The Canucks entered Wednesday ranked fourth in the NHL in power-play percentage (27.4), but they’re just 2-for-15 in their past four games (13.3 percent). “The power play is not where it needs to be right now,” Vancouver forward J.T. Miller said. “We’re not sharp.” Vancouver coach Rick Tocchet singled out left wing Andrei Kuzmenko for his poor decisions on the power play and lack of aggressiveness on the forecheck following the loss to New Jersey. Kuzmenko scored 39 goals for Vancouver last season, but his slow start this season prompted Tocchet to scratch him in back-to-back games late last month. “(The power play) was really high end with Kuzy at the start of the year,” Tocchet said. “We’ve got to get them moving a bit more, but Kuzy has got to start shooting the puck when he’s open over there (on the wall). That’s the next level for him.” Kuzmenko had just three shifts in the third period against the Devils, signaling he could be headed for another stint in the press box. “I’m tired of answering questions about him,” Tocchet said of Kuzmenko. “Kuzy has to forecheck, let’s start with that.” The Canucks certainly aren’t hurting for offense, however. J.T. Miller was second in the NHL with 39 points heading into Wednesday’s games. Hughes (36), Elias Pettersson (34) and Brock Boeser (30) are also having solid starts, making Vancouver the only team in the NHL with four players owning 30 points or more. –Field Level Media

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