After a thorough stomping of the San Jose Sharks, who are truly awful, the Canucks find themselves with another big Saturday Night test as they host one of the best in the West, the Dallas Stars. Thursday was a trap game, but this one is absolutely a measuring stick game to see if the Canucks are for real.
CANUCKS (7-2-1) at STARS (7-1-1)
Comparables are fun. And for those of us who have enjoyed this sudden rebirth of the Vancouver Canucks as a team that can actually be called good, this is absolutely a game to see just where they are in terms of the upper echelon in the Western Conference. Not what we were expecting at this point of the season, let alone at any point during this campaign.
Generally, the rule of thumb is that if you're in a playoff spot after American Thanksgiving, you're a fairly safe bet to be in the post season dance. Thanks to an absolutely torrid start from the Canucks, and the embarrassingly bad performances from the Oilers and Flames, the Canucks are in a situation to lock themselves in, especially with a Pacific Division heavy schedule this month. Eight of their next fourteen games remaining in November are against Pacific Division opponents.
That's a potential 16 points with regulation victories that won't go to the teams they're battling with for playoff spots. Add in tonight's contest against Dallas, and a game later this month against Colorado, and that's 20 potential points. I'm not suggesting the Canucks are gonna run the table on this set of games, but when you consider that it's Edmonton, Calgary, Anaheim, Vegas, and two each against Seattle and San Jose, there's some absolutely winnable games here.
And when things are rolling, you don't want to mess with them, so it shouldn't come as a shock that we'll see Thatcher Demko in goal again tonight. With the Canucks set to start another Eastern road swing next week, which includes a weekend back to back against Toronto Saturday and Montreal Sunday, it's not like they won't be getting Casey DeSmith in on the action. Sometimes, you have to let elite goaltenders go on a run, and the way Demko is stopping the puck right now, this is exactly what Rick Tocchet is doing.
Tonight they're up against a very good Dallas team that resembles the Canucks in a lot of ways. They have some elite forwards, star defencemen and a solid approach to team defence, as well as outstanding goaltending. This one is gonna come down to special teams, and most specifically: the NHL's 3rd best penalty killing team trying to stop the 2nd best power play so far this season. Dallas has killed off 93% of their penalties so far this year, but they've also played a lot of bad teams so far.
This lineup was found on the bathroom stall of a blues joint somewhere on the outskirts of Amarillo... or maybe nhl dot com, I think.
Stars projected lineup
Jason Robertson -- Roope Hintz -- Joe Pavelski
Jamie Benn -- Wyatt Johnston -- Evgenii Dadonov
Mason Marchment -- Matt Duchene -- Tyler Seguin
Ty Dellandrea -- Sam Steel -- Craig Smith
Ryan Suter -- Miro Heiskanen
Thomas Harley -- Jani Hakanpaa
Esa Lindell -- Nils Lundkvist
Scratched: Joel Hanley
Injured: Radek Faksa (upper body)
Canucks projected lineup
Andrei Kuzmenko -- Elias Pettersson -- Ilya Mikheyev
Phillip Di Giuseppe -- J.T. Miller -- Brock Boeser
Dakota Joshua -- Pius Suter -- Conor Garland
Anthony Beauvillier -- Sam Lafferty -- Nils Hoglander
Quinn Hughes -- Filip Hronek
Ian Cole -- Mark Friedman
Carson Soucy -- Tyler Myers
Scratched: Noah Juulsen, Jack Studnicka
Injured: Teddy Blueger (foot), Guillaume Brisebois (concussion)
So Dakota Joshua is back from his one game press box exile, and it's natural we should expect him to be noticeable tonight, lest he find his rear back there on Monday when the Oilers roll in. Other than that, no changes, no new injuries. Stars are essentially healthy, so this is two teams at their best, going head to head. I think we'll be in for a fun night of hockey.
GAME DAY CHATTER
GAME DAY BATTLE HYMN
Found myself in a mood for something in the vein of old school ENTOMBED or DISMEMBER, and this new one from ENDSEEKER fits the bill quite nicely. The German band has a new one out on METAL BLADE Records, so check out the title track from 'Global Worming'!
Enjoy the game everyone! Go Canucks Go!