SAINT PAUL, Minn. — A decade ago, when Minnesota and Vancouver were Northwest Division rivals, fans might have paid good money to watch the Wild and Canucks jockey for position in the standings.
On Tuesday, they will pay to watch offensive stars Chris Stewart and Derek Dorsett try to spur their respective teams to victory on the Wild’s home ice.
Minnesota winger Stewart and Vancouver winger Dorsett have emerged as their teams’ unexpected goal-scoring stars in October.
For Minnesota it is a necessity, with a handful of regular scorers sidelined. For Vancouver, it is a nice comeback for Dorsett, who missed the end of last season after having neck surgery in March.
“It’s been a lot of fun. Anytime you can help out offensively, it’s awesome,” Dorsett said after scoring his fifth goal in the Canucks’ past five games Sunday in a 4-1 win at Detroit. “The boys are having fun with it, and I’m having fun with it, enjoying it. Having missed a lot of time last year, it’s great to be able to come back and contribute early.”
It gave the Canucks (4-3-1) back-to-back wins for the first time this season, and Dorsett’s play has provided an unlikely source of inspiration inside the locker room.
“The guys are happy when guys like Dorsett do well,” Canucks coach Travis Green said. “It’s not always that those kinds of guys get a lot of credit or rewarded for playing a hard game. To see those players have success, especially when you’re winning, players like to see that.”
Stewart has six goals in six games for the Wild (2-2-2). Minnesota, which has played just one home game so far, opens a six-game home stand Tuesday.
“He’s unbelievable right now,” Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said of Stewart, who scored in Minnesota’s 4-2 win at Calgary on Saturday. “I don’t want to say anything, I don’t want to jinx him, I just want him to keep doing what he’s doing.”
The Wild have been beset by several significant injuries early, with offensive stalwarts Zach Parise still out and reportedly considering back surgery and Mikael Granlund sidelined since the season opener with a groin ailment. There was growing optimism that Granlund could be back in the lineup against the Canucks.
“You really want to play, and it’s not easy to watch it when all the boys are playing, but it is what it is,” Granlund said. “The boys did a good job in Calgary and now we’re back home, and hopefully we’re getting guys back, too, it’s just good to be out there.”
Along with the opportunity to get healthier, the Wild coach knows these half-dozen home games in a row present an opportunity for Minnesota to get back into the thick of the Central Division race.
“I think we’ve got to use it to our advantage and have a snowball effect,” Boudreau said. “You’ve got to make hay when the sun shines, and this is our opportunity to get over .500 and put some distance between us and others, even though we’re playing good teams.”