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

It's that time of year again, where an entire fan base is forced to consider how things affect the Leafs. It's also Hockey Day in Canada and an anniversary of sorts for Nucks Misconduct.

CANUCKS (30-11-4) at TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS (22-13-8)

ROGERS ARENA, VANCOUVER, BC

4:00 PM PST

SPORTSNET

Truth be told, I'd be totally fine with the Oilers or Flames getting the Saturday game when the Leafs come West. Anyway, there's the prerequisite bitching, because Leafs fans will be scouring for evidence of it. Far be it from us to be less than gracious hosts.

The Canucks returned from that epic seven game road trip and got into a fun one against the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday night. The game had a lot of intensity, and for a first game back, it was a hell of a lot better than we expected. So often that first game at home is a bit of a let down, but the Canucks battled against a solid Arizona squad, addressed some serious bullshit from the Coyotes "tough guy" and came out with another regulation win against a Western Conference opponent.

And in case you missed this yesterday...

And that was for this display of sportsmanship:

Absolute chickenshittery from the NHL's penalty minute leader O'Brien. 5 ungloved punches on a guy who didn't have his hands up over a clean hit? Pure garbage. And for the on ice officials to deem that "roughing", then follow the setup with the punchline of a fine and no suspension for a game who came off the bench, making no effort to get involved in the play, and attack a guy? Just brutal.

Fortunately, sometimes asshats like O'Brien get what's coming to them. I would suggest he re-think going after Nikita Zadorov next time these teams meet, because that was a pretty one-sided tilt.

Anyway, it's on to the second game of this five game homestand, the annual royal visit from the Leafs. Toronto's struggling a bit this season, with goaltending being a constant issue and inconsistent play from guys not named Nylander or Matthews. A team that some had as a genuine contender in the East at the start of the season is battling to stay afloat in the East, with a number of teams nipping at their heels. Pittsburgh is a mere 4 points back of the 3rd place Leafs, but just three out of a wild card spot.

The last time these teams met was one of the very few games this season where the Canucks didn't show up to play, and you can bet that Rick Tocchet is going to be reminding his players of that fact.

Since the 5-2 loss in November, the Canucks have gone 20-8-3, and are an impressive 15-4-1 at home. They've had the upper hand of late against Toronto, winning 6 of the last 10 meetings, and after an emotional win over the Coyotes, expect them to be fired up to keep the Leafs fans in the crowd quiet tonight.

LINEUPS

The following lineup was scrawled on the back of a tractor trailer unit that crashed into an overpass on the TransCanada Highway... or maybe it was nhl dot com.

Maple Leafs projected lineup

Pontus Holmberg -- Auston Matthews -- Mitchell Marner

Tyler Bertuzzi -- John Tavares -- William Nylander

Matthew Knies -- Max Domi -- Calle Jarnkrok

Bobby McMann -- David Kampf -- Noah Gregor

Morgan Rielly -- T.J. Brodie

Simon Benoit -- Jake McCabe

Mark Giordano -- Timothy Liljegren

Martin Jones

Ilya Samsonov

Scratched: Nicholas Robertson, William Lagesson, Conor Timmins

Injured: Ryan Reaves (lower body), Joseph Woll (ankle), John Klingberg (hip)

Canucks projected lineup

Elias Pettersson -- J.T. Miller -- Brock Boeser

Ilya Mikheyev -- Pius Suter -- Andrei Kuzmenko

Dakota Joshua -- Teddy Blueger -- Conor Garland

Nils Hoglander -- Nils Aman -- Sam Lafferty

Quinn Hughes -- Filip Hronek

Carson Soucy -- Tyler Myers

Nikita Zadorov -- Ian Cole

Thatcher Demko

Casey DeSmith

Scratched: Noah Juulsen, Linus Karlsson

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

Probably no changes from Thursday, apart from the possibility that we see Andrei Kuzmenko back in the press box after another disappointing outfit. If he's out, expect Linus Karlsson to be in, and Sam Lafferty get bumped up to his slot.

GAME DAY CHATTER

Another reason for the Canucks' turn around this season? Massively better team on the road than seasons past.

GAME DAY BATTLE HYMN

Prolific Finnish speed merchants NECRO WEASEL are back with a new one, and it absolutely fuckin' rips! From 'A Brave New World', this is 'They Want Us To Suffer'. Check them out on Bandcamp, eh?

Enjoy the game, everyone! Go Leafs Suck! Go Canucks Go!

The Canucks, with Elias Pettersson leading the way, are on an absolute tear through the Eastern Conference right now, and this afternoon they have a chance to put the cherry on their first ever NY/NJ road sweep with a win over their expansion cousins in Buffalo.

CANUCKS (28-11-3) at BUFFALO SABRES (18-20-4)

KEYBANK CENTER, BUFFALO, NY

1:00 PM PST

SPORTSNET

For the past few seasons, we've been frustrated as writers trying to come up with new and innovative ways to tell you that the Canucks were awful. Now, we're being put to the test trying to wrap our heads around a potential Cup run. It's a good problem to have, but we'll do our best to not get cocky about anything, lest we upset our betters. It's important, as we have been reminded this week, that we as fans know our place and keep our bloody mouths shut.

Heh.

Heading into this road trip, it had all the bearings of a win some/lose some kind of jaunt, especially after the inauspicious start to this seven game road swing in St Louis. Since then, the Canucks, faced with a gauntlet of playoff quality teams have rattled off four straight wins. And each of these wins just absolutely ring like a team making a statement that the era of soft, ineffective hockey is over in Vancouver.

With a management team that has literally done what Jim Benning told us he could do, and failed miserably at, to a coaching staff that has gotten a complete buy-in from the entire room to transform how they play the game, the Vancouver Canucks went from a potential Draft Lottery winner to a potential Stanley Cup threat in a year and a half. You know, just like Jim Rutherford and Patrik Allvin did in Pittsburgh.

It seems like every week there's something that's happening with the Canucks that is making the league take notice, and with the four wins over the last week against some of the best in the East, it's been the play of the reunited Lotto Line, most specifically Elias Pettersson, leading the way.

Over the last month, it was the Canucks bottom 6 forwards leading the way, but on this trip, it's been the team's best players at their absolute best. Pettersson, J.T. Miller and Brock Boeser have terrorized the opposition since being reunited a week ago in New Jersey, combining for 13 goals and 12 assists.

And how about the offensive contributions from the back end on this trip? 3 goals and 12 assists as the Canucks defence, led by Quinn Hughes and Filip Hronek prove the old adage: The best defence is a good offence. It's been production on a scale we haven't seen in a long time in this market, perhaps ever.

This brings them to Buffalo, taking on a Sabres team that find themselves in familiar territory. It seems like every season, they head into October with a roster that on paper should at least have them competitive, and hope that better days lie ahead. And every season, by this time, they find themselves seven points back of a playoff spot, and more likely to have a shot at a top five draft pick next season than hosting a playoff game at KeyBank.

If there's a plan in Buffalo, it's not clear apart from maybe they're playing the long con and they'll surprise everyone next year. But as for this season, this should be, especially the way the Canucks are playing right now, a long afternoon in Buffalo for the hosts. But hey, don't feel bad for them. They've still got the Bills.

LINEUPS

The following lineup was written in wing sauce and scrawled on the underside of a broken table in the parking lot at Highmark Stadium. Or it was nhl dot com, I think...

Canucks projected lineup

Elias Pettersson -- J.T. Miller -- Brock Boeser


Ilya Mikheyev -- Pius Suter -- Andrei Kuzmenko

Dakota Joshua -- Teddy Blueger -- Conor Garland


Nils Hoglander -- Nils Aman -- Sam Lafferty

Quinn Hughes -- Filip Hronek

Carson Soucy -- Tyler Myers


Nikita Zadorov -- Ian Cole

Casey DeSmith


Thatcher Demko

Scratched: Mark Friedman, Linus Karlsson, Noah Juulsen

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

Sabres projected lineup

Casey Mittelstadt -- Tage Thompson -- Alex Tuch


JJ Peterka -- Dylan Cozens -- Jack Quinn


Jordan Greenway -- Peyton Krebs -- Zach Benson


Eric Robinson -- Zemgus Girgensons -- Kyle Okposo

Mattias Samuelsson -- Rasmus Dahlin

Owen Power -- Erik Johnson

Ryan Johnson -- Connor Clifton

Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen

Devon Levi

Scratched: Victor Olofsson, Henri Jokiharju

Injured: Jeff Skinner (upper body)

After a solid performance against the Islanders on Tuesday night, it's nice to see Casey DeSmith rewarded with another start today. Load management, baby! Other than that, it's status quo as the Canucks continue to stay healthy and all that. The Sabres could be without Tage Thompson today, as he's been dealing with an injury and we likely won't know til closer to game time if he's good to go.

GAME DAY CHATTER

Something to keep in mind for today's contest.

Is that good? It seems good, but we wouldn't want to come off sounding cocky...

Can't imagine who that might have been, but my guess is some guy in marketing named Dancesco Squaquilini...

GAME DAY BATTLE HYMN

With 2024 set to see some seriously kickass releases in the metal realm, New Orleans thrashers EXHORDER have thrown down the gauntlet early ahead of their album release in March with 'Year Of The Goat'. The first single off 'Defectum Omnium', due March 8th worldwide on Nuclear Blast Records, this is one of the best tracks they've done since Pantera stole their sound off 'Slaughter In The Vatican' and 'The Law'. Crank this one and enjoy a cold brew before some Saturday afternoon Canucks hockey!

Enjoy the game, everyone! Go Canucks Go!

Coming off a massive win in New Jersey as they continue this tough seven game road trip, the Canucks now face a back to back against the New Yorks, with the Eastern Conference leading Rangers first up. Time for a little payback, perhaps?

CANUCKS (25-11-3) at NEW YORK RANGERS (26-10-2)

MADISON SQUARE GARDENS, NEW YORK, NY

4:00 PM PST

SPORTSNET

Saturday's win in New Jersey was far more than just an important two points for the Vancouver Canucks. Bouncing back from a disappointing loss in St Louis, as well as a massive confidence boost to get their first win in New Jersey since 2013 sets them up rather well for a battle against the Eastern Conference leaders, the New York Rangers.

The Rangers are just a point ahead of the Canucks in the overall standings, and a regulation win will see Vancouver leapfrog them and move into 2nd overall, as well as getting them to within one point of the Western Conference leaders, the Winnipeg Jets.

The last time these teams met was in October, as the tail end of a back to back at home for the Canucks. The game was as billed, two of the NHL's top teams in the standings going toe to toe, and it appeared to be headed for a shootout to decide it when a brutal non-call in OT in the Rangers favour directly led to the OT winner from K'Andre Miller.

That game also featured a moment that will live in Canucks history:

The Canucks have gotten a massive contribution from the rest of their Dcore this season compared to the last few, and they'll likely need it again tonight against the Rangers. And as Jeff Paterson wrote over at Canucks Army, the goalies aren't the only ones who could use a rest. Defensive load management should be something this team is engaging in the rest of the way.

This game is another measuring stick for the Canucks, and having acquitted themselves well in a number of these tests so far this season, we're eager to see how they match up in the last opportunity before they meet for a rematch of the 1994 Finals. Can you imagine? Also, skate jersey full time in the playoffs, please, including a white version. Do it already!

LINEUPS

Written in green ooze on the underside of a manhole cover in the Bronx, was this potential lineup for tonight. Rumour has it, you can also find it on nhl dot com...

Canucks projected lineup

Elias Pettersson -- J.T. Miller -- Brock Boeser

Ilya Mikheyev -- Pius Suter -- Andrei Kuzmenko

Dakota Joshua -- Teddy Blueger -- Conor Garland

Nils Hoglander -- Nils Aman -- Sam Lafferty

Quinn Hughes -- Filip Hronek

Carson Soucy -- Tyler Myers

Nikita Zadorov -- Ian Cole

Thatcher Demko

Casey DeSmith

Scratched: Noah Juulsen, Mark Friedman, Linus Karlsson

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

Rangers projected lineup

Chris Kreider -- Mika Zibanejad -- Blake Wheeler

Artemi Panarin -- Vincent Trocheck -- Alexis Lafreniere

Brennan Othmann -- Nick Bonino -- Jonny Brodzinski

Will Cuylle -- Barclay Goodrow -- Jimmy Vesey

Ryan Lindgren -- Adam Fox

K'Andre Miller -- Jacob Trouba

Erik Gustafsson -- Braden Schneider

Igor Shesterkin

Jonathan Quick 

Scratched: Zac Jones

Injured: Kaapo Kakko (lower body), Filip Chytil (upper body), Tyler Pitlick (lower body)

Nikita Zadorov is back in after missing Saturday, but he'll be going into Juulsen's spot to skate with Ian Cole, and the pairing of Myers and Soucy remains for now. I wouldn't at all be surprised to see some shuffling to address the issues a team like the Rangers can give a team, though.

GAME DAY CHATTER

Well, so much for the load management. Shame, because Juulsen's been steadily improving since he came back from the stretch of 11 straight healthy scratches. I mean, there's not a lot to complain about right now, but he's earned his spot.

What a difference a year makes, eh?

GAME DAY BATTLE HYMN

What am I supposed to do here, not introduce you to a band called NEON CHICKEN? Of course I am, dammit. This Australian one man band released its debut EP last year entitled 'Industrial Slavery' and it's a solid slab of modern thrash with some serious guitar chops. Sure, a lot of these one person projects never add members and play live, but that's no reason to discount them. Silly name aside, this is a promising debut.

After a frustrating loss in St Louis, the Canucks have some issues to address with the top 6 and getting them back in gear. It's Saturday, so maybe it's time to roll with 6/49 and bring back the Lotto Line?

CANUCKS (24-11-3) at NEW JERSEY (21-14-1)

PRUDENTIAL CENTER, NEWARK, NJ

4:00 PM PST

SPORTSNET PACIFIC, SN1

One of the great things about this year's version of the Canucks, is that games like Thursday's loss in St Louis have been rare this year. They're a little distressing, and something that needs to be nipped in the bud. Probably the two most glaring issues from that game were the Canucks losing a fucktillion faceoffs, and missing the net a fucktillion times. Making things easy for Jordan 'Where exactly were you three years ago today?' Binnington isn't something any team should do, lest the braintrust at Hockey Canada be fooled he's somehow supposed to lead Canada to glory at the upcoming World Cup Of Hockey next year.

So while the Bottom 6 continue to wreak havoc against their opponents, the top 6 have been alarmingly quiet. Yes, Elias Pettersson notched two earlier this week against the Ottawa Senators, but it's clear there's issues that are probably not just Andrei Kuzmenko's unwillingness to play a 200 foot game. The solution is simple: Like the rest of us on Saturdays, it's time to take a chance on 6/4(0)9 and reunite the Lotto line.

Yes, having the ability to roll four lines that can score was great while it lasted, but this is an adjustment that we know will work. And it may have the added bonus of giving the Canucks suddenly floundering power play the kick in the ass it needs. I'm not one of those guys who's gonna complain about J.T. Miller and Brock Boeser despite their struggles these past few games. And honestly, if you're still bitching and moaning about Miller, I wonder if you're truly watching his contributions to the games, because the Canucks are a better team this season because of how he's bought in to Rick Tocchet's plan. So let's throw their best forwards together, and put either Nils Hoglander or Sam Lafferty with Kuzmenko and Ilya Mikheyev, and force teams like the Devils to have to either have to focus on trying to deal with the speed and skill of the top 6, or risk spreading out so the third and fourth lines don't burn them.

This road trip is a tough one, and given the way this team has struggled against the Devils over the past few years, they're going to have to be air tight when it comes to errors in this game. There are a couple things that could work in the Canucks favour tonight though. The Devils were involved in a wild one against the Chicago Blackhawks last night, that saw 64 minutes in penalties and an open ice Scott Stevens special that left Connor Bedard with a fractured jaw.

They're also going with youngster Nico Daws in net after Vitek Vanecek got the win last night against Chicago. If the Canucks can get to Daws early and often, they'll give themselves a shot at securing a win, something they've managed just once in the last ten meetings with New Jersey.

LINEUPS

The following lineup was painted on the side of a barn in Old Bridge, NJ, but also may have been seen on nhl dot com...

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: Mark Friedman, Andrei Kuzmenko

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

Devils projected lineup

Tyler Toffoli -- Jack Hughes -- Jesper Bratt

Erik Haula -- Nico Hischier -- Dawson Mercer

Curtis Lazar -- Michael McLeod -- Alexander Holtz

Brendan Smith -- Chris Tierney -- Nathan Bastian

Luke Hughes -- John Marino

Jonas Siegenthaler -- Simon Nemec

Colin Miller -- Kevin Bahl

Nico Daws

Vitek Vanecek

Scratched: Graeme Clarke

Injured: Dougie Hamilton (pectoral), Tomas Nosek (foot), Timo Meier (undisclosed), Ondrej Palat (lower body)

Not that we wish him any ill will, but we certainly wouldn't shed a tear if Jack Hughes was unable to go tonight. Hughes, who left last night's game against the Blackhawks and did not return, is the team's leading scorer. The injuries are starting to mount for the Devils as they battle to hang onto their wild card slot in the East.

GAME DAY CHATTER

Great news for the Canucks D core, and while he'll likely be a game time decision, it does mean that one of Ian Cole and Noah Juulsen will have to come out. Both have been playing well in their third pairing roles, especially Juulsen and the physicality he brings to the back end.

GAME DAY BATTLE HYMN

Since Jimmi and Westy seem to think that my inclusion of JUDAS PRIEST was the reason for the Canucks loss on Thursday (yeesh) I have decided to respond by a) shaking my head in their general direction, and b) upping the heaviness factor. While I feel bad for you when they subject you to the crap they post in here when I am not at the helm (to get a rise out of me more than anything else), today it's time to fight back. Bay Area bastards GHOUL are back with a new single as they prepare to hit the road with label mates NECROT and DEAD HEAT in support of MUNICIPAL WASTE over the next couple months.

'Noxious Concoctions' is their first new tune in a while, and one that if you're familiar with them at all, hits hard as hell. Make sure and check them (and a ton of other cool bands) out at Tankcrimes Records.

Enjoy the game, folks. Go Canucks Go!

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 some much-needed rest, the Canucks kick off 2024 with a home game against Ottawa before embarking on an epic seven game road jaunt.

FLYERS (18-11-4) at CANUCKS (23-9-3)

ROGERS ARENA, VANCOUVER, BC

7:00 PM PST

SPORTSNET PACIFIC, TSN 5

Well, now that we've gotten the foul taste of the last game out of our collective mouths, and Team Canada is gone early from the World Juniors, we can turn our attention back to Canada's Team: The Vancouver Canucks.

While it seems like the Canucks would be due for an easier schedule than the first half of the season so far, but that's not the case, as tonight's contest kicks off a stretch of 13 games in 26 nights. And while there's some tough games coming up in this stretch, they'd do well to not take their eyes off the Sens. It's an opportunity for two points that could come in handy in what will be a tough month for the Canucks, and a way to regain some momentum after playing just once in more than week.

As far as the Sens go, it's another disappointing season, but with the team going through the growing pains of new ownership, management and coaching all on the fly this season, it's not wholly unexpected. This is still a team with some talent, in spite of their record, and as we've seen from the Canucks so far this year, they cannot take a night off against any team, especially with the Oilers starting to claw their way out of the basement after that horrendous start.

One good thing is that the Canucks have managed to keep their spot atop the Pacific Division standings while the teams chasing them have made up most, if not all of the games in hand the Canucks had on them. One of the big changes from last season has been their play on home ice, and a win tonight will move their home record to 14-4-1. They've been better on the road this year too, and they'll need to be, as they have 6 of those 7 games against non-playoff teams, the only one being a rematch against the first place New York Rangers and a chance for revenge after that bullshit non-call in OT led the Blueshirts to an undeserved win.

LINEUPS

The following lineups were scribbled on the inside of a discarded party hat seen floating down the Fraser River. Or maybe it was nhl dot com.

Senators projected lineup

Brady Tkachuk -- Josh Norris -- Claude Giroux

Vladimir Tarasenko -- Tim Stutzle -- Drake Batherson

Dominik Kubalik -- Ridly Greig -- Parker Kelly

Erik Brannstrom -- Mark Kastelic -- Zack MacEwen

Jake Sanderson -- Artem Zub

Thomas Chabot -- Jacob Bernard-Docker

Jakob Chychrun -- Travis Hamonic

Anton Forsberg

Joonas Korpisalo

Scratched: Angus Crookshank, Jiri Smejkal

Injured: Mathieu Joseph (lower body), Rourke Chartier (concussion)

Canucks projected lineup

Ilya Mikheyev -- Elias Pettersson -- Andrei Kuzmenko

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

Dakota Joshua -- Teddy Blueger -- Conor Garland

Nils Aman -- Pius Suter -- Sam Lafferty

Quinn Hughes -- Filip Hronek

Nikita Zadorov -- Tyler Myers

Ian Cole -- Noah Juulsen

Thatcher Demko

Casey DeSmith

Scratched: Mark Friedman, Nils Hoglander

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

Rick Tocchet's tough love academy has welcomed Nils Hoglander back to the press box again, showing that on this team, there's no room to rest on your laurels. PDG is back from his exile and will skate on the 2nd line with Miller and Boeser. Carson Soucy will be on the road trip, but he won't be playing tonight. The Canucks D have been playing well, but it will definitely help to get the veteran Soucy back in the lineup.

GAME DAY CHATTER

GAME DAY BATTLE HYMN

We're off to Chile this time and a brand new track from CRITICAL DEFIANCE. It's off their upcoming as yet untitled third album. It follows up on 2022's fantastic release 'No Life Forms', and is a good sign that we'll be getting another solid disc of crossover thrash. Here's 'The Search Won't Fall', and if you dig these guys, definitely head over to their Bandcamp page and check them out.

The Canucks are back on their bullshit, and by bullshit, we mean defying the odds and predictions of what this season was going to look like. Tonight they'll roll into Dallas with a chance to head home having snagged 7 of 8 possible points on this Central Division road swing.

Vancouver Canucks (20-9-2) vs Dallas Stars (18-8-4)

American Airlines Center, Dallas, TX

5:00PM PST

Sportsnet Pacific

The wagon is rollin' yet again.

After a frustrating loss in the shootout to Minnesota, the Canucks rebounded with back to back wins in Chicago and Nashville, and will wrap up this four game road jaunt tonight in Dallas taking on the Stars. And what better place to end it than DFW against a team that they've beaten in 11 of their last 14 meetings.

The Stars have been one of the NHL's better teams over the last few seasons, but have been getting beaten repeatedly by the Canucks, who definitely have been one of the NHL's worst teams over that same time frame, and while it makes zero sense, it's only gonna get worse for Dallas.

As the Canucks showed against Nashville Tuesday night, even good teams are having fits trying to handle the tenacity of the Canucks forechecking. The Preds came into that game winners of 13 of their last 16, yet never had a sniff as the Canucks rolled over them in the second period.

That's not to say that there aren't issues that need addressing, but unlike Canucks teams of the past, things that aren't working get addressed immediately. They've had a near complete buy in on Rick Tocchet's systems, and when you add in the incredible efforts from the players that GM Patrik Allvin brought in this season, they truly are a much different squad than the one we suffered through for years. Jim Benning swore he could retool on the fly, but he never came close to doing what Allvin and Jim Rutherford have managed to do since they were hired. I mean, the Canucks have a chance to go into the NHL's Christmas break in first place overall. Not even the most optimistic Canucks fan could have imagined this.

And while this is a hell of a lot of fun, this is still a team that cannot take a night off, and is going to have to continue to hope for more good luck when it comes to staying healthy if they hope to continue on this trajectory and not just make the playoffs, but actually make a run at the Cup. Yes, I think we've reached the point where we can start talking about this, and believe me when I say it's as weird as it sounds.

And one thing that's going to help this? Some well-deserved rest. After Saturday's home game against San Jose, the Canucks have just two games over the following ten days. That's going to be massive in terms of letting the guys who are playing a little banged up get healthy, and considering the daunting seven game road swing coming up next month, heading into that healthy and well rested is going to be huge.

LINEUPS

The following potential lineup was found in the basement of the Alamo. Or maybe it was on nhl dot com...

Canucks projected lineup

Ilya Mikheyev -- Elias Pettersson -- Pius Suter

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

Dakota Joshua -- Teddy Blueger -- Conor Garland

Philip Di Giuseppe -- Nils Aman -- Sam Lafferty

Quinn Hughes -- Filip Hronek

Nikita Zadorov -- Tyler Myers

Ian Cole -- Noah Juulsen

Thatcher Demko

Casey DeSmith

Scratched: Mark Friedman, Andrei Kuzmenko

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

Stars projected lineup

Jason Robertson -- Roope Hintz -- Joe Pavelski

Jamie Benn -- Wyatt Johnston -- Evgenii Dadonov

Mason Marchment -- Matt Duchene -- Tyler Seguin

Craig Smith -- Radek Faksa -- Sam Steel

Ryan Suter -- Miro Heiskanen

Esa Lindell -- Jani Hakanpaa

Thomas Harley -- Nils Lundkvist

Scott Wedgewood

Matt Murray

Scratched: Ty Dellandrea, Joel Hanley

Injured: Jake Oettinger (lower body)

And for a fourth straight game, Andrei Kuzmenko is a healthy scratch. Not a surprise, given how well the Canucks are playing right now. It's probably going to take an injury to get him back into the lineup, and every passing game makes it more likely he gets dealt at some point unless they can find a way to get him in sync with the rest of his team and play his way out of his troubles.

GAME DAY CHATTER

GAME DAY BATTLE HYMN

We're gonna wrap up my last game preview before Xmas with an absolute rager from Irish lunatics GAMA BOMB. Off their new disc 'BATS', here's "Don't Get Your Hair Cut". From mine to yours, all the best this holiday season, eh? Stay safe, happy and warm, and enjoy some hockey through it all. Go Canucks Go!

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