Come For The Banter - Stay For The Disappointment
Nucks Fan Rebuild & Retool Center - Come For The Banter - Stay For The Disappointment

Seven games in eleven nights. It just refuses to get easier for the Canucks as they head off on one of their longest and toughest road trips of the 23/24 season, starting tonight in St Louis.

CANUCKS (24-10-3) at ST LOUIS (18-17-1)

ENTERPRISE CENTER, ST LOUIS, MO

5:00 PM PST

SPORTSNET PACIFIC

While it wasn't without its warts, the Canucks still came out with a better overall effort on the 2024 side of the end of the year, than what we saw against Philadelphia a few days earlier. I'm not particularly thrilled with the second period we saw from them, after what was probably the most dominant first period performance they've shown us all year. They took their foot off the pedal and allowed the Senators a whiff of optimism in a game where they had no business doing that, and that will surely be addressed.

Another thing that had to be addressed was the injury in the first period to Phillip DiGiusepe. It has to be frustrating for him, having just made it back into the lineup only to pull something and miss the rest of the game after getting an opportunity on the Miller/Boeser line.

Karlsson will get into the lineup right away, with Nils Aman also getting back in on the fourth line.

These teams are meeting for the second time this season, the first one being a lopsided 5-0 Canucks win at the end of October. The Blues are 5-3-0 under new head coach Drew Bannister after parting ways with Craig Berube last month. They're still in tough to try and claw their way back into a playoff spot, but losing the last two, while the Oilers and Kraken have won their last six and five games respectively, have allowed those two rivals to leapfrog them as they chase down the Arizona Coyotes for the final Wild Card slot in the Western Conference.

LINEUPS

The following lineup was spray painted on the Arch, and also, apparently, the ol' nhl dot com thingy...

Canucks projected lineup

Ilya Mikheyev -- Elias Pettersson -- Sam Lafferty

Pius Suter -- J.T. Miller -- Brock Boeser

Dakota Joshua -- Teddy Blueger -- Conor Garland

Nils Hoglander -- Nils Aman -- Linus Karlsson 

Quinn Hughes -- Filip Hronek

Nikita Zadorov -- Tyler Myers

Ian Cole -- Noah Juulsen

Thatcher Demko

Casey DeSmith

Scratched: Andrei Kuzmenko, Mark Friedman

Injured: Phillip Di Giuseppe (lower body), Carson Soucy (foot), Guillaume Brisebois (concussion)

Blues projected lineup

Pavel Buchnevich -- Robert Thomas -- Jordan Kyrou

Brandon Saad -- Brayden Schenn -- Jake Neighbours

Alexey Toropchenko -- Kevin Hayes -- Kasperi Kapanen

Nathan Walker -- Oskar Sundqvist -- Sammy Blais

Nick Leddy -- Colton Parayko

Torey Krug -- Matthew Kessel

Marco Scandella -- Scott Perunovich

Jordan Binnington

Joel Hofer

Scratched: Nikita Alexandrov, Tyler Tucker

Injured: Justin Faulk (lower body)

So it looks as though Andrei Kuzmenko is back in the doghouse again. It also appears Sam Lafferty is back on the first line, and Pius Suter's strong play since his return has been rewarded with a promotion to the second line with Miller and Boeser. No changes on defence, and it'll be Demko versus noted pissbaby and lover of getting Michigan'd, Jordan Binnington for the Blues in net tonight. I so wanna see Hoglander try to do it on him to see if his bullshit tough talk is for real. Honestly, I think it would be the best thing in the world if teams tried to do this to him every time they played the Blues, because fuck that guy, man.

GAME DAY CHATTER

GAME DAY BATTLE HYMN

Today in the "Holy shit am I getting old" department, we give you a classic album that was released on this date 40 years ago today. Fresh off their 1983 release 'Screaming For Vengeance' that saw the band break huge in North America, Judas Priest followed it up with an album that doesn't get enough praise in their catalog, IMO. A solid banger from beginning to end that sees both the twin axe attack of Glenn Tipton and KK Downing at their best and Rob Halford cementing his legacy as THE Metal God, we're gonna give you a double shot today, with the two video releases from this album: 'Freewheel Burning' and 'Love Bites'. Happy 40th to 'Defenders Of The Faith' from JUDAS PRIEST.

Enjoy the game tonight, folks! Go Canucks Go!

After what might well have been one of the worst hockey games in the history of the sport, the Canucks make their way to Chicago, where they're being served up on a platter for Connor Bedard and the Blackhawks.

Vancouver Canucks (20-9-2) vs Chicago Blackhawks (9-19-1)

12:00PM PST

UNITED CENTER, CHICAGO, IL

SPORTSNET

After being forced to sit through a loving tribute to the 'glorious' Cult Of Lemaire days by the Minnesota Wild yesterday, the Canucks find themselves having to play yet another 3rd game in 4 nights scenario, this time, the schedule maker has decided things are just too rough on the poor, hard done by Chicago Blackhawks and given them a small token of their affection.

I suppose the best we can hope for is that a rested Thatcher Demko can conjure up another game like we saw from him on Thursday night against Florida, and that the rest of the Canucks are actually awake and coherent for this one. As dreadful as it is to watch the Wild play, the Canucks did themselves no favours by offering little pushback, and made some mind-boggling defensive choices throughout the game.

Another thing they'll need to fix for today is the power play. Going 0 for 5 against one of the worst penalty kills at home in the NHL simply isn't good enough, and while they did get a point, there wasn't a single one of the Canucks 'best players' you could say had a strong performance yesterday. It's great that the third line has become such a threat, but they're not going to win you hockey games.

And then there's Bedard. You know he wants to have a big game today against his favourite team growing up, and he'll be going full out from puck drop. Sure, he has little help, but if you give this kid an inch, he'll use it to destroy you. It's great that we could see this rivalry rekindled down the road, but it's gonna suck that the next great superstar went to this absolutely abhorrent franchise.

LINEUPS

This lineup was written on the wall of the cooler inside the restaurant from 'The Bear', which apparently is the only cooler in any restaurant ever that didn't have a way for you to get out of you should find yourself locked inside. Seriously, for all the lengths they've gone to in terms of recreating kitchen life and culture, this was an embarrassing gaffe. Anyway, it's also on nhl dot com...

Canucks projected lineup

Ilya Mikheyev -- Elias Pettersson -- Sam Lafferty

Nils Hoglander -- J.T. Miller -- Brock Boeser

Dakota Joshua -- Teddy Blueger -- Conor Garland

Andrei Kuzmenko -- Pius Suter -- Phillip Di Giuseppe

Quinn Hughes -- Filip Hronek

Nikita Zadorov -- Tyler Myers

Ian Cole -- Noah Juulsen

Thatcher Demko

Casey DeSmith

Scratched: Mark Friedman, Nils Aman

Injured: Carson Soucy (foot), Guillaume Brisebois (concussion)

Blackhawks projected lineup

Lukas Reichel -- Connor Bedard -- Philipp Kurashev

Anthony Beauvillier --Tyler Johnson -- Taylor Raddysh

Nick Foligno -- Jason Dickinson -- Joey Anderson

Ryan Donato -- Cole Guttman -- Reese Johnson

Filip Roos -- Connor Murphy

Isaak Phillips -- Niikita Zaitsev

Alex Vlasic -- Louis Crevier

Petr Mrazek

Arvid Soderblom

Scratched: MacKenzie Entwistle, Wyatt Kaiser

Injured: Seth Jones (left shoulder), Jarred Tinordi (concussion protocol)

Look, we all know that this is a truly awful Chicago team, and that is by design. They're going full Pittsburgh, so that they can get the best odds at another number one pick this year, and probably next, so that they can create a new core and try and build around that. But as we saw against the Sharks a couple weeks ago, taking any team lightly will come back to bite you on the ass.

So what needs to happen to prevent this? Well, we need the top 6 to play like it. They were, to a man, not good at all yesterday. And especially on the power play, which should be able to feast on the Hawks terrible penalty killing and poor goaltending. I would expect to see J.T. Miller step up with a big game after being so noticeably awful yesterday.

GAME DAY CHATTER

GAME DAY BATTLE HYMN

New Jersey thrashers The Donner Party are up today. Some solid thrash that embraces some of the best influences of both coasts. You can hear as much Exodus and Vio-Lence as you can Overkill and Nuclear Assault in these tunes, and that's always gonna get a thumbs up from me. Check out 'Mondo America' from their 2023 release 'Cutting Class'!

Enjoy this rare lunchtime game, everyone. Go Canucks Go!

VANCOUVER CANUCKS (28-32-5) vs DALLAS STARS (37-17-13)

7:00 PM PST

ROGERS ARENA, VANCOUVER, BC

TV: SN PACIFIC. RADIO: SN650

I'm back. Try to contain your excitement, eh? And as long as we're talking about muted responses, let's talk a bit about the Vancouver Canucks. As with every other dream that involves the Canucks, the hopes that they could somehow stay relevant in the chase to the basement and a legitimate shot at winning the draft lottery and the golden ticket that is Connor Bedard, it's gone.

In a scenario that was both worst case and yet most likely, the Canucks have gone 7-2-1 in their last 10 games, including a season high 4 game winning streak. They're 5-1 since the last times these two teams met 15 days ago, and while the Dallas Stars indeed have a lot to play for, sitting just one point behind Vegas for first place in the Western Conference and home ice advantage through the first three rounds of the playoffs, the Canucks are playing for pride and I guess the consistency of being below average? I just don't understand, even after 14 years of covering this team, why they do what they do, and I'm not alone. I would imagine that there are people in the organization that are thankful for the Arizona Coyotes, because there'd likely be more focus on how dysfunctional they are.

Alas, with the dream having died, we may as well strap ourselves in, put on that "this is actually fine, and I enjoy Vancouver Canucks hockey" face we've perfected over the past years, and enjoy some of the good things. I dare say there's not a person out there who could have seen Andrei Kuzmenko having the impact on this team that he's had when the Canucks landed the much-desired KHL free agent this past summer. While we get the whole "he's not an actual rookie" thing, he's hands down the best first year player in the league this season and it's not even close. This is a guy who does nothing but score HUGE goals, every damn night.

We're also getting treated to the emergence of Elias Pettersson into the upper echelon of NHL stars. He's shattered his personal best in goals, assists and points already, and he's done it being an incredibly consistent two way player. Quinn Hughes continues to develop into the kind of rearguard this team's not had for a long time, if ever, and you can't help but be inspired by the way a finally healthy Thatcher Demko has played since his return. Admit it, you were as concerned as we were about how he played before the injury, but he's been stellar since coming back. Sure, there's an argument to be made that this team's record would have been better if they'd gotten better goaltending this season, but it is what it is, and they are what they are.

It's still too early to tell if the Canucks are truly better with Rick Tocchet behind the bench, or if this is just the same new coach bump we saw last season when Bruce Boudreau took over from Travis Green. They have been getting a little better defensively, as we saw in the games against Toronto and Ottawa, and have only allowed more than three goals against once in the last two weeks, in the 5-4 win over... the Dallas Stars. Yes, they're playing some subpar teams the rest of the way, but the improved defensive play is encouraging if it can remain consistent.

LINEUPS

According to nhl.com, this is what we can expect in tonight's tussle:

Stars projected lineup

Jason Robertson -- Roope Hintz -- Joe Pavelski

Jamie Benn -- Wyatt Johnston -- Evgenii Dadonov

Mason Marchment -- Max Domi -- Ty Dellandrea

Joel Kiviranta -- Radek Faksa -- Fredrik Olofsson

Miro Heiskanen -- Colin Miller

Esa Lindell -- Jani Hakanpaa

Ryan Suter -- Joel Hanley

Matt Murray

Jake Oettinger

Scratched: Nils Lundkvist

Injured: Luke Glendening (lower body), Tyler Seguin (lower body), Scott Wedgewood (lower body)

Canucks projected lineup

Andrei Kuzmenko -- Elias Pettersson -- Anthony Beauvillier

Phillip Di Giuseppe -- J.T. Miller -- Brock Boeser

Dakota Joshua -- Nils Aman -- Conor Garland

Vitali Kravtsov -- Sheldon Dries -- Vasily Podkolzin

Quinn Hughes -- Noah Juulsen

Guillaume Brisebois -- Tyler Myers

Christian Wolanin -- Kyle Burroughs

Thatcher Demko

Collin Delia

Scratched: Jack Studnicka

Injured: Filip Hronek (upper body), Ethan Bear (face), Oliver Ekman-Larsson (ankle), Travis Dermott (undisclosed), Ilya Mikheyev (torn ACL), Tanner Pearson (hand), Tucker Poolman (undisclosed)

It's a little remarkable that the Canucks have managed to put together this run when you look at how many of their regular defencemen are injured, but then again, maybe it's not. Ethan Bear (he with the face injury, according to the nhl dot com) has been practising in a non-contact jersey but should be returning to the lineup soon. Given the chatter about Tocchet expecting more from Brock Boeser of late, a game against Matt Murray seems like just the thing to do it. You probably shouldn't be shocked if Boeser rings up a hatty tonight, is what I'm trying to say.

The Stars have been rolling along well in their own right, though one of their losses in their last 10 came to the Canucks, in that 5-4 OT Canucks win. The Stars have been scoring an average of 4.9 per game over their last 10, so if Demko's not on his A game tonight, it'll be a long one at the Rog.

GAME DAY CHATTER

GAME DAY BATTLE HYMN

We've featured them a couple times earlier this season, and the latest release from ELECTRIC CALLBOY doesn't disappoint. It's stupid, infectiously so, and the perfect theme song for this stupid team going on a stupid run to finish off this stupid season. All aboard!

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