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

Tonight there is no middle ground: It will either go down as one of the greatest victories in Canucks history, or another chapter in the tale of the most cursed franchise in hockey.

VANCOUVER CANUCKS VS EDMONTON OILERS (SERIES TIED 3-3)

6:00PM PST

ROGERS ARENA, VANCOUVER, BC

RADIO: SN650 TV: ESPN, SN, CBC, TVAS

As if things weren't emotional enough heading into the deciding game of this series, the hockey gods decided once again to test the Canucks. Already without their All Star goaltender since Game Two of the first round, and with a number of their best players obviously playing hurt, the Canucks will now have to find a way to victory without their top scorer in the post-season this year.

At the same time, the health of Brock Boeser, and the possible implications of this diagnosis on his career outweigh the importance of the game. The longest serving Canuck has been through a lot in his nine years in Vancouver. Injuries, struggles with years of a sub-par roster, leading to some to say he'd been a bust after an amazing rookie season. The emotional toll of his father's passing to cancer, and the Canucks nearly trading him away all culminated in this year, where he came out and had his best season ever. That it ends like this, and could potentially be the end of his career is just so damn cruel.

We've been saying all along that this is all just gravy on a season none of us dared to dream could happen. That doesn't change. What has changed, is the desire to see the Canucks come out of this night victorious. Of course it's not going to be easy, but with a packed house at Rogers Arena, and the way the Canucks have responded to bad performances like the one in Game Six, which was their worst of the playoffs by a mile, maybe this Cinderella story isn't done just yet.

In order to pull this off, there's going to have to be some changes. One of them is getting shots on goal, as many as they can. It's infuriating that they managed a paltry 15 shots on Stuart Skinner Saturday night. Allowing him to regain some confidence is a serious failure on the Canucks part, and bringing him back down to earth and back to his sub .800 save percentage is one of the biggest keys to a Canucks victory.

Another thing the Canucks must do is score on the bloody power play. Keep it simple, and just pound the damn puck on Skinner every chance they get. Get in his sight lines and create havoc in front of the net. They've wasted so many opportunities to get the upper hand on the Oilers with the failures on the power play. Tonight, they can change that.

Despite what seems a mountain of adversity, the bulk of the pressure is still on the Oilers. One cannot imagine that the brain trust of this team can survive another post-season failure, especially in a season where they were picked by many to win it all for the first time since their last Cup in 1990. With rumours swirling about Ken Holland potentially bailing for the open GM position in Columbus, a loss for the Oilers tonight could bring about a major shakeup.

It's going to take more than the Canucks' best players being their best players tonight. To a man, the Canucks have to step up and do this. Home teams tend to win more often in Game Seven, and the team that scores first wins around 75% of the time. Get that first goal early, break Skinner's confidence and do not let up til the siren goes.

LINEUPS

Canucks projected lineup

Pius Suter -- J.T. Miller -- Ilya Mikheyev

Dakota Joshua -- Elias Lindholm -- Conor Garland

Nils Hoglander -- Elias Pettersson -- Sam Lafferty

Phil Di Giuseppe -- Teddy Blueger -- Nils Aman

Quinn Hughes -- Filip Hronek

Carson Soucy -- Tyler Myers

Nikita Zadorov -- Ian Cole

Arturs Silovs

Casey DeSmith

Scratched: Mark Friedman, Noah Juulsen, Linus Karlsson, Christian Wolanin, Vasily Podkolzin

Injured: Thatcher Demko (undisclosed), Brock Boeser (undisclosed)

Oilers projected lineup

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins -- Connor McDavid -- Zach Hyman

Dylan Holloway -- Leon Draisaitl -- Evander Kane

Warren Foegele -- Ryan McLeod -- Derek Ryan

Mattias Janmark -- Sam Carrick -- Connor Brown

Mattias Ekholm -- Evan Bouchard

Darnell Nurse -- Vincent Desharnais

Brett Kulak -- Cody Ceci

Stuart Skinner

Calvin Pickard

Scratched: Corey Perry, Sam Gagner, Troy Stecher

Injured: Adam Henrique (lower body)

There was some discussion that we might see Miller and Pettersson paired up in Boeser's absence and from these lineups it doesn't look as though it'll start off that way, but we'll see what happens. Tocchet has done a fantastic job of using his changes at home, and we could see a bit of a blender tonight. Mikheyev and Lafferty are back in, and that's an experience thing more than anything else I'm sure. Having had some time to rest and heal (especially in Mikheyev's case) could help. No other changes, and no changes for the Oilers.

GAME DAY CHATTER

GAME DAY BATTLE HYMN

Amen. It's been a hell of a year, and it may come to an end tonight, but we know these guys won't go down without a fight. Go Canucks Go!

Another comeback win as the boys in blue & green blew the roof off Rogers Arena Wednesday night. Can they build on a dominant performance and head off to Edmonton with a 2-0 series lead?

VANCOUVER CANUCKS VS EDMONTON OILERS (CANUCKS LEAD SERIES 1-0)

7:00PM PST

ROGERS ARENA, VANCOUVER, BC

RADIO: SN650 TV: TNT, truTV, MAX, SN, SN360, CBC, TVAS

For every talking head that spent their time complaining how boring the first round series between the Canucks and Nashville was, the feeling that this was somehow the Canucks fault was blown out of the water with that game on Wednesday night. And while Nashville's head coach is probably still whining that 'the better team didn't win' that series, the Canucks gave the Oilers, and the hockey world a refresher course on what this team was built for.

And half way through the 2nd period, when Edmonton stretched their lead to 4-1, if you weren't watching the game, it would be natural to assume that the Oilers that ran roughshod through the NHL after the hiring of Kris Knoblauch were simply doing to the Canucks what they did to the LA Kings in round one. If you were watching the game however, you'd have seen that the Oilers were extremely fortunate to be up at all, let alone by three goals.

And sure, there was an element of the Oilers sitting back a bit, but any attempts to push forward were being met by one of the better defensive performances this year by the Canucks, most notably by the jaw dropping stat of Connor McDavid being held shotless in the playoffs for the first time in his career. Throw in a now obviously injured Leon Draisaitl, and the way the Canucks absolutely abused the defence pairing of Cody Ceci and Darnell Nurse, and it would appear rumours of the Canucks imminent demise were indeed unfounded.

A lot has been said about how the Canucks are underdogs here. That the Oilers, vastly more experienced and talented, will continue on their roll towards a Cup berth. The Canucks meanwhile, as they've done all season long, refuse to buy into these narratives, and have continued making their doubters look foolish.

So with a healthy three goal lead, Arturs Silovs shut the door, the Canucks held the Oilers shotless for over 22 minutes, and the Canucks showed the hockey world they can still be dominant at 5 on 5, and the acquisitions of Elias Lindholm and Nikita Zadorov became even larger. Big Z has been an absolute force in the post-season for the Canucks, with another goal and solid defensive play. And Lindholm. along with linemates Dakota Joshua and Conor Garland were a threat all night, in addition to an outstanding performance in their own end.

The key here is more of the same. While the majority of pundits said that the Canucks domination of the Oilers during the regular season meant nothing, that the playoffs were a different beast and the Oilers a different team now. Wednesday showed that to be untrue, as the Canucks, sticking to the gameplan that they've used all season, and got the same result in the end. This team was built to neutralize teams like McDavid, Draisaitl and the Oilers, and if they can continue to keep Edmonton's fearsome power play off the ice, they'll be just fine. Unless of course, something happens that drastically alters things tonight...

Oh, boy. I'd say we should expect at least 5 Oilers PPs tonight. This is gonna be a tough one.

LINEUPS

Oilers projected lineup

Warren Foegele -- Connor McDavid -- Zach Hyman

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins -- Leon Draisaitl -- Evander Kane

Dylan Holloway -- Ryan McLeod -- Corey Perry

Mattias Janmark -- Derek Ryan -- Connor Brown

Mattias Ekholm -- Evan Bouchard

Darnell Nurse -- Cody Ceci

Brett Kulak -- Vincent Desharnais

Stuart Skinner

Calvin Pickard

Scratched: Philip Broberg, Jack Campbell, Sam Carrick, Ryan Fanti, Sam Gagner, Troy Stecher

Injured: Adam Henrique (undisclosed)

Canucks projected lineup

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

Nils Hoglander -- Elias Pettersson -- Ilya Mikheyev

Dakota Joshua -- Elias Lindholm -- Conor Garland

Phillip Di Giuseppe -- Teddy Blueger -- Sam Lafferty

Quinn Hughes -- Filip Hronek

Carson Soucy -- Tyler Myers

Nikita Zadorov -- Ian Cole 

Arturs Silovs

Casey DeSmith

Scratched: Mark Friedman, Nils Aman, Noah Juulsen, Vasily Podkolzin, Nikita Tolopilo

Injured: Thatcher Demko (undisclosed) 

So it's a game time decision, but all signs point to Draisaitl trying to play through whatever it is that's ailing him. Doesn't appear to be any other changes though we could see Sam Carrick fill in for Draisaitl if he can't go. No changes for the Canucks, and below we've got the list of Black Ace callups from the Abbotsford Canucks since they were eliminated from the AHL Playoffs Wednesday night.

GAME DAY CHATTER

GAME DAY BATTLE HYMN

Sometimes, metal gets a bad rap for being obsessed with the darker sides of existence, and to be fair, so much of the music lends itself to that. For me, it's a way to get the anger and frustration out of my system, but sometimes there's metal tracks that are just so wholesome and good you wanna share them. TEXAS TOAST CHAINSAW MASSACRE are a thrash band from Chicago who have a new album coming June 28th that you can get for free on their Bandcamp page! This is now my favourite song of all time, and it goes out to all the good boys and girls out there. This is 'I Wanna Pet Your Dog'. Crank it, take your dog for a nice pregame walk and then enjoy the game, everyone! Go Canucks Go!

After blowing an opportunity to close out at home, the Canucks are back in Nashville, with a second opportunity to move forward with a win over the Preds this afternoon.

VANCOUVER CANUCKS VS NASHVILLE PREDATORS (CANUCKS LEAD SERIES 3-2)

4:00PM PST

BRIDGESTONE ARENA, NASHVILLE, TN

RADIO: SN650 TV: MAX, truTV, TNT, BSSO, SN, TVAS, CBC

It's perfectly fine to be frustrated with the Game 5 loss. It was a missed opportunity, as well as a chance to get a bit of rest before taking on the Edmonton Oilers in the Pacific Division Final aka Round 2. That being said, the Canucks are still in the drivers seat, and if there's something that should keep everyone hopeful for today's game, it's that they've yet to play their best hockey of the post-season.

That's not to imply in any way that this will be easy. The Preds are going to come out hard from the drop of the puck, and much like they did in Game 3, the Canucks will need to weather the storm. Then again, it probably wouldn't surprise me to see the Canucks come storming out themselves. You have to know they're not happy they let the last game get away, and nothing would be more pleasing than taking the crowd out of it early.

The list of players who need to step up is far larger than those who have shone in this series, and they're going to need some help from the supporting cast to bring this across the finish line. And in the name all that is right and good, whatever Ilya Mikheyev has done to anger the hockey gods, please, I implore you, release him from your cruel grip. The poor bastard, and this fan base have suffered enough.

At the end of the day, the Canucks just need to get back to playing the systems that saw them shock the NHL this season. They've beaten better teams than Nashville, and are in this situation because the Preds goalie has stolen two games for them. That ends tonight.

LINEUPS

Canucks projected lineup

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

Nils Hoglander -- Elias Pettersson -- Ilya Mikheyev

Dakota Joshua -- Elias Lindholm -- Conor Garland

Phillip Di Giuseppe -- Teddy Blueger -- Sam Lafferty

Quinn Hughes -- Filip Hronek

Carson Soucy -- Tyler Myers

Ian Cole -- Nikita Zadorov

Arturs Silovs

Casey DeSmith

Scratched: Mark Friedman, Nils Aman, Noah Juulsen, Vasily Podkolzin, Nikita Tolopilo

Injured: Thatcher Demko (undisclosed)

Predators projected lineup

Filip Forsberg -- Ryan O'Reilly -- Gustav Nyquist

Anthony Beauvillier -- Colton Sissons -- Jason Zucker

Mark Jankowski -- Tommy Novak -- Luke Evangelista

Cole Smith -- Michael McCarron -- Kiefer Sherwood

Roman Josi -- Dante Fabbro

Ryan McDonagh -- Tyson Barrie

Jeremy Lauzon -- Alexandre Carrier

Juuse Saros

Kevin Lankinen

Scratched: Luke Schenn, Jaret Anderson-Dolan, Cody Glass, Gustavs Grigals, Juuso Parssinen, Kevin Gravel

Injured: Spencer Stastney (upper body)

No changes either way, it would seem. If there is to be changes, both coaches are keeping their cards close to the vest. I wouldn't be surprised to see the lines get put in a blender a bit, especially to get guys like Elias Pettersson and J.T. Miller going.

GAME DAY CHATTER

Silovs has played well, and earned the start. It's not a knock on DeSmith, but in a way, Silovs is more experienced in big games given his run for Latvia at the World Championships last spring.

GAME DAY BATTLE HYMN

This band Killer Kin, and they hail from Connecticut. I love the old school vibe of this video, as well as the nods to Motorhead and Zeke in their sound. Filthy, grimy rock n roll the way it should be, baby! Crank up 'Point Blank' and get psyched for Game 6!!!

With three minutes to go in Game Four, it looked like the Canucks were headed back to Vancouver with the series tied. What no one counted on, was Brock Boeser unleashing hell in Nashville, scoring twice with Arturs Silovs on the bench to force OT. After that, they needed just a minute more for Elias Lindholm to seal the deal and push the Preds to the brink of elimination.

VANCOUVER CANUCKS VS NASHVILLE PREDATORS (CANUCKS LEAD SERIES 3-1)

7:00PM PST

ROGERS ARENA, VANCOUVER, BC

RADIO: SN650 TV: TVAS2, TBS, MAX, SN, BSSO

After the way the Canucks performed in Game Two, it certainly didn't feel like we'd be heading for an elimination game tonight. But after gutsy wins in Games Three and Four, they find themselves in the position to punch their ticket to the second round tonight with a win over Nashville. Given their health situation through four hard hitting games, getting a few days to rest and heal definitely sounds like something to take advantage of.

You can say that the Canucks didn't deserve to win on Sunday afternoon, but it was Nashville who took their foot off the gas in the dying minutes of the third, setting up one of the greatest Canucks playoff victories in franchise history. And how fitting that it was Brock Boeser, the Canucks' longest serving player, that put the team on his back and tied the game twice with the goalie pulled. This guy has been here through some of the darkest days, and by god, he may just may lead them to a shot at the Stanley Cup.

And how about the performance of Arturs Silovs? The Canucks turned to their third stringer, desperate when Casey DeSmith was unable to go, and the Hero of the great nation of Latvia said, "I stopped America, and I will stop Nashville, too!"

Combined with another strong defensive effort, the Canucks worked to give Silovs the opportunity to see pucks, clearing the net front and rebounds efficiently. They also put in another stellar night of penalty killing, as once again, the Canucks were forced to kill off some ticky-tack calls while Nashville seemed to commit fouls with impunity.

Instead of wondering if they were going to suffer a disappointing first round loss, the Canucks, much like their shocking regular season, are becoming the story of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs. It would have been easy to write them off given the loss of Demko, let alone DeSmith, but this team has a vibe so reminiscent of the 1994 Canucks team that battled back from being down 3-1 to Calgary to win that series, then take out the favoured Dallas Stars and Toronto Maple Leafs before coming within a goal of winning it all in Game Seven to he who shall not be named.

They have talent, speed, skill, strength, and seem to relish in proving people wrong. It may be one series, and it's a long road to go, but this team is making believers out of people by finding ways to win even when it seems they shouldn't. You know, the way really good teams do. I know for some who cover the game, it's gotta be tough admitting you've continued to be wrong about this team. And we enjoy watching your discomfort, trust me.

The beauty of Silovs' performance on Sunday, is that he's given them the option of going with him again in Game Five, rather than pushing DeSmith back if he's not quite ready. It's this kind of depth that's been missing from this team for the longest time, paying dividends when it truly matters. And early reports are that Silovs will indeed get the start tonight. Maybe. Both teams are playing it close to the vest in terms of changes tonight.

If there's one thing to be encouraged about heading into this game, it's that the Canucks have played far from what could be considered their best hockey. They've had a team play them tough, and despite all the challenges, still found a way to come out on top. They will need everyone on board for tonight, as the further you go, the the more costly passengers along for the ride can be.

LINEUPS

Predators projected lineup

Filip Forsberg -- Ryan O'Reilly -- Gustav Nyquist

Anthony Beauvillier -- Colton Sissons -- Jason Zucker

Mark Jankowski -- Tommy Novak -- Luke Evangelista

Cole Smith -- Michael McCarron -- Kiefer Sherwood

Roman Josi -- Dante Fabbro

Ryan McDonagh -- Luke Schenn

Jeremy Lauzon -- Alexandre Carrier

Juuse Saros

Kevin Lankinen

Scratched: Tyson Barrie, Jaret Anderson-Dolan, Cody Glass, Gustavs Grigals, Juuso Parssinen

Injured: Spencer Stastney (upper body)

Canucks projected lineup

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

Nils Hoglander -- Elias Pettersson -- Ilya Mikheyev

Dakota Joshua -- Elias Lindholm -- Conor Garland

Phillip Di Giuseppe -- Teddy Blueger -- Sam Lafferty

Quinn Hughes -- Filip Hronek

Carson Soucy -- Tyler Myers

Ian Cole -- Nikita Zadorov

Arturs Silovs

Casey DeSmith

Scratched: Mark Friedman, Nils Aman, Noah Juulsen, Vasily Podkolzin, Nikita Tolopilo

Injured: Thatcher Demko (undisclosed)

GAME DAY CHATTER

If you haven't seen it yet, Chris Higgins' new feature 'All In The Details' is fantastic.

GAME DAY BATTLE HYMN

Swiss moshmonsters INSANITY ALERT have a new video for the title track to their new EP, a beautiful pisstake on a QUEEN classic. Enjoy 'Moshemian Thrashody' as you get pumped up for tonight!

Enjoy the game, everyone! 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.

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!

Injuries are beginning to mount alongside the losses. The Canucks face more adversity as they start a back to back with an almost 840 mile trip in between.

Vancouver Canucks (13-5-1) vs Seattle Kraken (8-8-5)

CLIMATE PLEDGE ARENA, SEATTLE, WAS

7:00PM PST

SPORTSNET PACIFIC

The underwhelming feeling that followed the loss in Denver on Wednesday night is nothing compared to the oh so familiar feeling of "Dear god, what now?" when it comes to injuries the Canucks have been dealing with over the last few days. With Carson Soucy and Pius Suter now listed on injured reserve, requiring the Canucks to put in a call to Abbotsford for forwards to bolster the beleaguered lineup.

It's not all bad news, thankfully.

It was looking as though they wouldn't have either of them available for tonight's contest, but it's not just the guys who are out that give cause for concern. Whether it's an injury he's playing through or an illness, something is clearly not right with Elias Pettersson for these past few games. He's out there, and sure he's getting points here and there, but he definitely isn't the same EP40 we saw earlier in the campaign.

We could go on about the frustration that was Wednesday's game against the Avalanche (and believe me, there's an f'ing list of shit I could talk about), but much like the team themselves, the focus must stay on the task at hand, and with tonight's contest the first of five straight against Pacific Division opponents, these are must win games if the Canucks want to keep the distance they've built between themselves and their rivals.

A chance for payback is always good, and when you look at that 4-3 loss to the Kraken a few days ago, it's definitely a game where the Canucks deserved a better fate. Bad bounces, a goaltender playing far above his average for the season, and some questionable calls made for a frustrating loss, but that can all be erased tonight with a win. Fatigue will definitely be an issue though, as the Canucks have played a lot of hockey over the past three weeks, and with a jaunt down to San Jose tomorrow night, it's definitely something to keep in mind.

One thing they'll have to do is play smart. Avoiding the penalty box is going to ensure they can roll all four lines and keep the top six from getting burnt out. They have the luxury of a backup goaltender they can rely on, and we'll see Casey DeSmith in the crease for one of these two contests. Finishing the month on a high note as they head to December is important, and with the Vegas Golden Knights and first place in the Pacific still within striking distance, getting on a roll will help that in a big way.

LINEUPS

Canucks projected lineup

Sam Lafferty -- Elias Pettersson -- Ilya Mikheyev

Anthony Beauvillier -- J.T. Miller -- Brock Boeser

Dakota Joshua -- Teddy Blueger -- Conor Garland

Phillip Di Giuseppe -- Nils Aman -- Nils Hoglander

Quinn Hughes -- Filip Hronek

Mark Friedman -- Tyler Myers

Ian Cole -- Cole McWard

Thatcher Demko

Casey DeSmith

Scratched: Andrei Kuzmenko, Akito Hirose

Injured: Pius Suter (undisclosed), Carson Soucy (foot), Guillaume Brisebois (concussion)

Kraken projected lineup

Jared McCann -- Matty Beniers -- Jordan Eberle

Jaden Schwartz -- Alexander Wennberg -- Brandon Tanev

Eeli Tolvanen -- Yanni Gourde -- Oliver Bjorkstrand

Tye Kartye -- Pierre-Edouard Bellemare -- Kailer Yamamoto

Vince Dunn -- Adam Larsson

Jamie Oleksiak -- Will Borgen

Brian Dumoulin -- Justin Schultz

Joey Daccord

Chris Driedger

Scratched: Jaycob Megna

Injured: Andre Burakovsky (upper body), Philipp Grubauer (undisclosed)

Well, some might be surprised by this, but if you are, you haven't really been paying attention to how Rick Tocchet runs things, as we'll see a pretty significant lineup shuffle, as well as Andrei Kuzmenko listed as a healthy scratch tonight. We knew there was going to be regression after his incredible debut last season, and if the Canucks had been truly struggling this season, this might have happened sooner. This is clearly an attempt to send a message to both player and team that things cannot rest solely on the shoulders of the stars, so watch for a response both tonight, and tomorrow when Kuzmenko returns to the lineup.

Will these lines hold? Who knows. I'm all here for the team actually trying to address issues instead of just shuffling along when things obviously need a shakeup.

GAME DAY CHATTER

GAME DAY BATTLE HYMN

Some more Japanese metal weirdness for you. With 'Pardon Me, I Have To Go Now', this is HANABIE. You're welcome.

Enjoy the game. Go Canucks Go! Make sure to check out the post game wrap up and then we'll do this all again tomorrow.

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