Sports

Re-introducing Burnaby breakout Mike Santorelli; Canucks play Minnesota tonight

Has there been a better story in the Western Conference this year than Burnaby-bred Mike Santorelli? - Wikimedia Commons
Has there been a better story in the Western Conference this year than Burnaby-bred Mike Santorelli?
— image credit: Wikimedia Commons

On paper, this looks like a great opportunity to push that win streak to eight games. But the Vancouver Canucks have been nothing close to predictable this season, and a Tuesday-night tussle with a hungry but mediocre (as of late) Minnesota Wild team could deserve a word of caution.

Entering tonight, the Wild – who are hosting Vancouver in the season's first meeting between the two – are 4-6-1 in their last 11, while the Canucks have won seven straight.

Minnesota trails Vancouver by two points. They need a win, but don't we all?

"Avoid a letdown," writes Canucks.com's Daniel Fung. "It's hard to manufacture the same level of intensity in a game against a lesser rival especially coming off such an emotional win as they had on Saturday versus Boston but, given the importance of this game standings-wise, the Canucks will have to find a way to bring that same motivation to this contest."

Sure, the Canucks have been good, and their latest clearcut involves a perfect, five-win home stand. But only just before that, they were bad. From November 9 to November 30, Vancouver lost eight of 10. They turned it around, but they've been so consistently inconsistent through 2013, it's hard to have that much faith in them, from game to game.

"We're not coaching the result," John Tortorella said on Tuesday, responding to a question from the Province's Ed Willes. "We're coaching how the team plays, and quite honestly I thought we had quite a bit of room for improvement against Boston.

"It's such a fine line of winning and losing, I'm always thinking about how we're playing each day, so we coach every day.

"I don't worry about the standings. I just worry about our game here tonight against Minnesota."

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Burnaby Mike

Has there been a better bargain in the NHL this year than Burnaby-bred Mike Santorelli?

The forward came to Vancouver out of the discount bin, signing for one year and $550,000 last offseason after being cast away from Florida and Winnipeg.

"I had a rough couple years and knew I really needed to re-establish myself," said Santorelli, who had 20 goals with the Panthers two seasons ago (NHL.com). Last year, he struggled with 34 games in a lockout-shortened campaign, ending with two goals and two assists, good enough for four points.

"My mindset coming in was I just wanted to get back to being me. Before I looked at everything else around me and didn't focus on what I needed to do to be successful."

This season, Santorelli – who had to fight for a spot in the club's preseason – has notched 24 points through 35 games, and has recently starred on a line with do-everything centre Ryan Kesler and grind-you-down winger Chris Higgins.

He was a standout on Saturday night, too, picking up two pretty but gritty assists on goals from Higgins and defenceman Chris Tanev.

"The best players in the League are gritty, competing and battling every single shift," Santorelli told NHL.com's Kevin Woodley last week. "They are all so strong on the puck. They are all good defensively. You can't play at one end of the ice. You just can't do that in this League anymore."

*To read more from Kevin Woodley, check out his work with InGoal magazine...

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