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

The Canucks have a chance to move to the Conference Finals for just the fourth time in franchise history tonight. They'll look to build off their best game of the post-season and finish off the Oilers in Edmonton.

VANCOUVER CANUCKS VS EDMONTON OILERS (CANUCKS LEAD SERIES 3-2)

5:00PM PST

ROGERS PLACE, EDMONTON, AB

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

After the first ten minutes of Game Five, it was starting to feel like the Canucks were going to have a hard time trying to take advantage of home ice when an Evander Kane goal put them down 1-0 in the first five minutes. They turned up the intensity though, and began to do what they've done all season: wearing down teams with relentless forechecking, timely hits and constant pressure. They were rewarded late in the period when Carson Soucy sniped a point shot past Calvin Pickard to tie the game. The Oilers would take advantage of a mistake by Soucy, leading to a 2 on 1, with Mattias Janmark scoring just 0:23 later.

Fortunately, another trait the Canucks have shown this season, was zero panic when falling behind. We've seen it throughout these playoffs, and in the second period, great work behind the net by Nils Aman saw him strip the puck off Evan "He's so much better than Quinn Hughes" Bouchard, feeding new Daddy Phil Di Giuseppe out front, who made with the Bertuzzian spin-o-rama for the tying goal.

The Canucks would continue to press, and it's only due to a strong performance from Pickard that the game would stay tied. The Oilers were being outhit, outworked, and outclassed, but they couldn't get the go-ahead goal. We prepared ourselves for what would be a nerve-wracking overtime. Fortunately, someone forgot to tell Elias Pettersson, Elias Lindholm and J.T. Miller.

With less than a minute remaining, Lindholm fired a shot towards the net, which was re-directed by Pettersson with a soccer style backheel. The puck went by Pickard, off the post and right to a waiting Miller, who buried it for the GWG. It will live on as one of best playoff goals in Canucks history, as the Canucks once again found a way to win late.

Apart from the slow start, this was the most complete game we've seen out of the Canucks in this year's playoffs. The lineup additions were impactful, as were the line changes. The Pettersson, Lindholm and Nils Hoglander line were noticeable all night, and Hoglander nearly gave the Canucks the lead in the third, but Pickard was able to get enough of Hogs' shot to steer it into the post.

Another huge factor was the penalty kill, which picked up where it left off in the third period of Game Four and kept the fearsome Oilers PP off the scoresheet, going 5/5 on kills and even getting a couple short handed chances in the process. They outhit the Oilers 41-23, and dominated the faceoff dot, winning just over 57% of the draws.

After Game Four, Head Coach Rick Tocchet complained about too many passengers, and said it would be addressed. WIth Sam Lafferty, Ilya Mikheyev and Linus Karlsson sitting, Hoglander, Di Giuseppe and Vasily Podkolzin came in and were noticeable, and it's pretty unlikely we'll see them back in the press box for Game Six.

As he has been throughout the playoffs, veteran Dman Ian Cole was just getting buried out there. Too slow, too casual, and making too many bad decisions that have led to pucks getting behind Arturs Silovs. Cole's been a valuable member of the Canucks blue line this season, and as an experienced vet and Stanley Cup winner, his voice is surely valuable. But on the ice, between bad plays and bad luck, Cole is a massive liability, and Tocchet would do well to take him out of the lineup and bring Noah Juulsen back in. For the number of minutes Juulsen would need to replace with Cole out, this isn't a huge issue.


And what about Silovs? He continues to be one of the best stories of the NHL Playoffs, battling hard to keep the Canucks in every single game, as well as keep the entire nation of Latvia up til the wee hours of the morning as they watch their hero. Thatcher Demko's inching closer and closer to his return, but how can you not give Silovs the crease tonight and give him the chance to close out against the Oilers, and give Demko a couple more days to get ready before a Western Conference Finals date with the Dallas Stars?

The biggest factor? The way the Canucks have continued to limit Connor McDavid's impact on this series. He's had just one assist in the last three games, and was on the ice for two of the three Canucks goals in Game Five. Is he hurt? Maybe. But the job that J.T. Miller and the rest of the team have done in limiting time and space is paying off. Look for them to continue this tonight.

LINEUPS

Canucks projected lineup

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

Nils Hoglander -- Elias Lindholm -- Elias Pettersson

Dakota Joshua -- Teddy Blueger -- Conor Garland

Phil Di Giuseppe -- Nils Aman -- Vasily Podkolzin

Quinn Hughes -- Filip Hronek

Carson Soucy -- Tyler Myers

Nikita Zadorov -- Ian Cole

Arturs Silovs

Casey DeSmith

Scratched: Mark Friedman, Noah Juulsen, Linus Karlsson, Sam Lafferty, Ilya Mikheyev, Christian Wolanin

Injured: Thatcher Demko (undisclosed)

Oilers projected lineup

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

Dylan Holloway -- Leon Draisaitl -- Evander Kane

Warren Foegele -- Ryan McLeod -- Corey Perry

Mattias Janmark -- Derek Ryan -- Connor Brown

Mattias Ekholm -- Evan Bouchard

Darnell Nurse -- Vincent Desharnais

Brett Kulak -- Cody Ceci

Stuart Skinner

Calvin Pickard

Scratched: Sam Carrick, Sam Gagner, Troy Stecher

Injured: Adam Henrique (lower body)

As mentioned, no changes for the Canucks. Apart from Skinner, there might be one change with the Oilers. There is a player that is reportedly sick, and may be replaced at game time. We'll see how that plays out, but Adam Henrique, the Oilers' big trade deadline acquisition is definitely out tonight.

As has been the case, but nevermore so tonight: the pressure is squarely on the Edmonton Oilers, a team that was picked by many at the start of the season to win the Stanley Cup. And tonight, they (along with a TON of journalists who picked the Oilers to win this series) will be added to the list of those who underestimated the 2023-24 Vancouver Canucks.

GAME DAY CHATTER

The Canucks have been making history all season long, so why stop now?

GAME DAY BATTLE HYMN

Haven't dragged this one out for a long time, but it feels like it was written for this game, right? A Vancouver band, with a video that I believe was filmed at the Commodore, if I'm not mistaken. From the album S.Y.L., it's STRAPPING YOUNG LAD and their killer anthem 'Relentless'.

One step away from the third round. Win or lose, this has been a hell of a run, but here's to this story being far from over. Enjoy the game, everyone. Go Canucks Go!

The loss on Tuesday was frustrating for a number of reasons, but tune out what the talking heads are telling you, the pressure remains on the Oilers here, not the Canucks.

VANCOUVER CANUCKS VS EDMONTON OILERS (SERIES TIED 2-2)

7:00PM PST

ROGERS ARENA, VANCOUVER, BC

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

There's always different views of a given situation, and it's up to you to figure out which one you choose to believe. On the one hand, as numerous outlets have breathlessly told us, each of these four games were either won or lost by the Edmonton Oilers. If this feels familiar, it should.

Getting credit where it's due has been probably the biggest challenge this season. Every accomplishment seems to come with an asterisk. The wins, and improved offensive play are merely the product of an extremely high PDO, and nothing more. And even with Rick Tocchet deservedly getting an Adams Trophy nomination, it's still not enough for people to admit that the Canucks are pretty good.

One of the NHL's worst defences, overhauled in mere months. New systems that helped them on their way to one of the best seasons in franchise history. All just luck in the eyes of some. And that's fine. After all, at the end of the day, the Canucks are way ahead of schedule in the retooling process, and every single playoff game is a bonus. So while there's pressure to get going, for assorted reasons, the bulk of the pressure is still, deservedly so, on the backs of the Edmonton Oilers.

This is year nine of the Connor McDavid era, and at least year three of them being considered a serious Stanley Cup contender. And through all of that, they have just one Conference Finals appearance to show for it. They have the two best players in the NHL, along with a number of elite players, and they're fortunate to have been able to tie the series at two games a piece against a team that hasn't given us a 60 minute effort once through the entire playoffs, and doing that with their third string goaltender.

They might be outshooting the Canucks, and leading in offensive zone time, but the majority of their offence is either a) on the power play, or b) on jaw droppingly fortunate bounces and deflections. Ian Cole is literally driving their offence right now, and that's not a joke.

I'm not gonna be torn up if the Canucks lose this series, but the thing is: they don't have to lose it. If they can give one frickin' complete game, where everyone shows up, they'll roll these clowns. They're absolute frauds, and the fact that the Canucks can put in 20-30 minutes a night and this series is down to a best of three proves that.

So, there has to be changes, right? Elias Pettersson simply cannot continue to be such a non-factor. There are a number of players who are just providing nothing of value for the Canucks right now, and this is being addressed in a number of changes to the lineup tonight. Ideally, the Canucks should want to end this series in Edmonton Saturday. With the Colorado Avalanche staving off elimination in Dallas last night, that series could potentially go the full seven games. A couple additional days rest and practice, especially for Thatcher Demko, is imperative. As well as Arturs Silovs has played, a healthy Demko is the key for any path forward if they can get to the Conference Finals.

So, expect the Canucks to come out pissed off tonight. They know they haven't played their best yet, and with an opportunity to put a stranglehold on the series, let their foot off the Oilers' collective throats. Time to remind them who the best team in the Pacific is tonight, eh?

LINEUPS

Oilers projected lineup

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

Dylan Holloway -- Leon Draisaitl -- Evander Kane

Warren Foegele -- Ryan McLeod -- Corey Perry

Mattias Janmark -- Derek Ryan

Mattias Ekholm -- Evan Bouchard

Darnell Nurse -- Vincent Desharnais

Brett Kulak -- Cody Ceci

Philip Broberg

Calvin Pickard

Stuart Skinner

Scratched: Sam Carrick, Sam Gagner, Troy Stecher, Connor Brown

Injured: Adam Henrique (lower body)

Canucks projected lineup

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

Nils Hoglander -- Elias Lindholm -- Elias Pettersson 

Dakota Joshua -- Teddy Blueger -- Conor Garland

Phillip Di Giuseppe -- Nils Aman -- Vasily Podkilzin

Quinn Hughes -- Filip Hronek

Carson Soucy -- Tyler Myers

Nikita Zadorov -- Ian Cole

Arturs Silovs

Casey DeSmith
 
Scratched: Mark Friedman, Christian Wolanin, Noah Juulsen, Sam Lafferty, Ilya Mikheyev, Linus Karlsson

Injured: Thatcher Demko (undisclosed)

Okay, this is what we wanted to see. Changes needed, changes made. Pettersson with Lindholm and a rested Hoglander, the return of the Bleug Man Group (not my bit, but I will give credit to the guy if I can find the tweet), PDG back to score a goal for his new baby boy, and the playoff debut of Vasily Podkolzin.

No changes for the Oilers, at least tonight. Pickard gets shelled tonight. Book it.

GAME DAY CHATTER

GAME DAY BATTLE HYMN

Part of a wave of amazing metal bands from India, tonight's Battle Hymn is "Give 'Em Hell" from AGAINST EVIL. It's the title track from their new album on Doc Gator Records, and it's got a real nice, high energy old school feel. Crank this one loud enough that they can hear it down on Scott Road! Enjoy the game, everyone! Go Canucks Go!

We knew that trying to take down the Oilers wasn't gonna be easy, but we also didn't think the Canucks would already have to be taking on the league and national media in the process.

VANCOUVER CANUCKS VS EDMONTON OILERS (CANUCKS LEAD SERIES 2-1)

6:50PM PST

ROGERS PLACE, EDMONTON, AB

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

We'd seen signs of it throughout the season. Various pundits and Twitterati predicting the downfall of the Canucks that would see them be able to save face on getting their preseason predictions wrong. As the season wore on, everything that was supposed to spell the end of what was easily the best story in the NHL this season, failed to do so.

The injury to Thatcher Demko earlier in the season saw Casey DeSmith and Arturs Silovs step up and hold the fort til Demko could return, only to have the situation repeat itself after Game One against Nashville. And then when DeSmith was injured, Silovs stepped in and added even more mystique to the incredible turn around of this team.

Instead of giving the Canucks credit for rebuilding their defence corps, and adding some excellent complimentary pieces, and changing the way they play, all we heard was "PDO! PDO! PDO!!!" all season long. It's not that the Canucks weren't the beneficiaries of a high PDO, but they are nowhere near as good as they've been without the improvements on team defence.

And into the playoffs, the disrespect continues. From Nashville Head Coach saying "The better team did not win" the first round series, to the barrage of analysis three games in about how it's all how the Edmonton Oilers lost Game One and Three and not how the Canucks were able to win. Even the OT win in Game Two, the Oilers had to rely on another goal from Ian Cole to get the win. I mean, where would they even be without Ian Cole's scoring? It's not that the Canucks should be having their asses kissed, but for god's sake, people can see that they're making life miserable for the Oilers, giving them few prime chances, and have vastly superior goaltending.

And then there's the officiating. It's been bad, both ways. There's no denying that. But when we see Nikita Zadorov get a $5000 fine, and Carson Soucy get suspended for a game in the same series where we've seen Darnell Nurse run Elias Pettersson headfirst into the boards, Connor McDavid highstick Quinn Hughes, Evander Kane try to kick Zadorov, as well as Warren Foegele throw a punch on Zadorov while on the bench, none of these were punished. Add in Zack Hyman crosschecking Zadorov on THE SAME BLOODY PLAY that saw Soucy suspended, and actually causing more damage than the ones the Canucks got punished for? This is why we are the way we are. This is the shit that Roger Nielson raised that towel for.

I've said it already and I'll say it again. Keep disrespecting them. Keep underestimating them. This team doesn't quit, and will continue to find ways to win. Wanna suspend Soucy? That's nice. This team has been rolling on a 'Next Man Up' mentality all season long.

In the last game, there was a lot of stuff to be positive about. They came out and had a fantastic first period, especially after giving up that early power play goal, replying with one of their own. With two goals from Brock Boeser and Elias Lindholm, they did a great job of taking the crowd out of it for a good chunk of the game.

The third period was nerve wracking, but there was more to that period than a barrage of Oilers shots. The Canucks did a great job keeping the Oilers on the perimeter, withstanding the Oilers storm and coming up with two massive penalty kills in that final frame.

They're doing a lot of things right, and will again need to stay out of the box if they hope to head back to Vancouver on Thursday for a potential elimination game. The power play has been better, but they're going to need more from some of the guys who have been quiet, and maybe another game with Linus Karlsson, who was solid in Game Three, can get Elias Pettersson out of his funk.

The Oilers, meanwhile will need to get more out of anyone not named McDavid, Draisaitl, Hyman, Ekholm or Bouchard. Their depth scoring has been non-existent, and trying again to get 30 minutes a night out of McDavid and Draisaitl, especially when they're not getting the goaltending they need, is a recipe for failure. They've got their hopes pinned on a 32 year old journeyman goaltender who has less pro playoff starts than Arturs Silovs.

LINEUPS

Canucks projected lineup

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

Ilya Mikheyev -- Elias Pettersson -- Linus Karlsson

Dakota Joshua -- Elias Lindholm -- Conor Garland

Nils Aman -- Teddy Blueger -- Sam Lafferty

Quinn Hughes -- Filip Hronek

Nikita Zadorov -- Tyler Myers

Ian Cole -- Noah Juulsen

Arturs Silovs

Casey DeSmith

Scratched: Mark Friedman, Phil Di Giuseppe, Christian Wolanin

Injured: Thatcher Demko (undisclosed), Nils Hoglander (undisclosed)

Suspended: Carson Soucy

Oilers projected lineup

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

Dylan Holloway -- Leon Draisaitl -- Evander Kane

Warren Foegele -- Ryan McLeod -- Corey Perry

Mattias Janmark -- Derek Ryan

Mattias Ekholm -- Evan Bouchard

Darnell Nurse -- Vincent Desharnais

Brett Kulak -- Cody Ceci

Philip Broberg

Calvin Pickard

Stuart Skinner

Scratched: Connor Brown, Sam Carrick, Sam Gagner, Troy Stecher

Injured: Adam Henrique (lower body)

Lots to digest here, with both teams making some tweaks. As expected, Noah Juulsen will step in for Carson Soucy. That's gonna allow Ian Cole to play his normal side and could see the Oilers secondary scoring dry up. Juulsen was quite good on the PK this year, so we'll see how that comes into play tonight. PDG is still back in Vancouver on personal leave, and it's interesting to see Nils Hoglander listed as injured. It's not something we've seen discussed up til now, so we'll have to see what comes out about that. It's worth noting that in the series between Abbotsford and Bakersfield last season, which saw Silovs and Pickard go head to head, Hoglander had 2 goals and 2 assists.

The Oilers are in desperation mode, as you can tell by splitting McDavid and Draisaitl, as well as bringing in a 7th defenceman. And if you thought Nurse and Ceci were bad, if I were a Canucks forward, I'd be licking my chops at the prospect of facing Phillip Broberg on a shift.

GAME DAY CHATTER

If you didn't get a chance yesterday, Sekeres & Price had the OG himself, Tony Gallagher on and it is an absolute must listen, as well as their response to that Mark Spector garbage from earlier in the week.

This absolutely reeks of desperation, along with switching to Calvin Pickard. Start firing pucks on Pickard from puck drop and let that seed of doubt grow.

GAME DAY BATTLE HYMN

Going with some old school Van City Crossover today. I was scouring YT when I stumbled across this gem, haven't heard it for at least 20 years. From 1988, this is 'Fight Back' from Vancouver's own ADVERSITY. Canucks vs The World, baby! Enjoy the game, everyone! 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!

With the Division title in their grasp, and a chance at the Conference crown, the Canucks finish their home schedule against the Flames with a healthy Thatcher Demko in the crease tonight.

Vancouver Canucks (49-22-9) vs. Calgary Flames  (37-38-5)

7pm PDT; 10 p.m. ET

TV: Sportsnet Pacific, Sportsnet West

Radio: Sportsnet 650

50 wins. Wrap your heads around that one for a moment. Every single point gained of late has been an extra cherry on top of the sundae that has been this unexpected season. To get to 50 wins for just the third time in franchise history is beyond amazing. And while there's still a lot to be decided, it's hard to get mad at any missteps these guys make given the past few seasons of misery.

Now that's not to say they should get ahead of themselves. It's still possible for the Oilers to overtake them in Game 82 should the Canucks lose both games in regulation. Winning out could see them possibly snagging the top spot in the Western Conference, which is great for home ice in the first three rounds, but has you facing Vegas or LA in Round One instead of the preferable Nashville Predators. Not that the Preds are a pushover, they've had a hell of a turn around. But if the Canucks want to get on a roll, this is the best path for them, and letting Dallas and Edmonton deal with the other two doesn't hurt, either.

Tonight they'll meet a Calgary Flames team that once again failed to meet expectations, and wasted another year of prime Jacob Markstrom in the process. Getting Thatcher Demko back, healthy and rested for the playoffs should alleviate some of the fears y'all have been feeling heading into the post-season, and a fairly healthy team to start the playoffs is all we could hope for, really.

An OT loss tonight will clinch things for the Canucks, as they have the tiebreaker over the Oilers, and it'll help ensure they get that first round date with the Preds, too. I know we're not used to things going the Canucks way, but the Rutherford/Allvin/Tocchet era just doesn't do past narratives, I guess.

LINEUPS

Scrawled on a dumpster beside the Costco across the street from Rogers Arena, this lineup may also have appeared on the nhl dot com thingy...

Flames projected lineup

Martin Pospisil -- Nazem Kadri -- Andrei Kuzmenko

Yegor Sharangovich -- Mikael Backlund -- Andrew Mangiapane

Jonathan Huberdeau -- Connor Zary -- Dryden Hunt

Matt Coronato -- Kevin Rooney -- Adam Klapka

MacKenzie Weegar -- Daniil Miromanov

Oliver Kylington -- Rasmus Andersson

Ilya Solovyov -- Brayden Pachal

Jacob Markstrom

Dustin Wolf

Scratched: A.J. Greer, Dennis Gilbert, Walker Duehr, Nikita Okhotiuk

Injured: Blake Coleman (upper body), Joel Hanley (undisclosed)

Canucks projected lineup

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

Nils Hoglander -- Elias Pettersson -- Ilya Mikheyev

Dakota Joshua -- Elias Lindholm -- Conor Garland

Vasily Podkolzin -- Teddy Blueger -- Sam Lafferty

Quinn Hughes -- Filip Hronek

Carson Soucy -- Tyler Myers

Ian Cole -- Nikita Zadorov

Thatcher Demko

Casey DeSmith

Scratched: Mark Friedman, Nils Aman, Noah Juulsen, Phillip Di Giuseppe

Injured: None

No real changes for the Canucks apart from the return of Demko, and man is it nice to see that injured list empty heading into Game One next week. Markstrom will go for the Flames, as we get to see Andrei Kuzmenko one last time this season. If the Canucks check him the way they handled Leon Draisaitl Saturday night, it's gonna be a long one for the Flames.

GAME DAY CHATTER

GAME DAY BATTLE HYMN

Although I'm sure you don't need much to get your pulse racing right now, this 3:00 ripper from BAT will get you rarin' to go for the post season! Off their new album 'Under The Crooked Claw' on Nuclear Blast Records, this is 'Streetbanger'!

Enjoy the game, folks! Go Canucks Go!

Coming off a frustrating overtime loss, the Canucks head into the All Star break with one last game, and a chance to make amends for another frustrating overtime loss as they host the Columbus Blue Jackets.

CANUCKS (31-11-5) at TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS (15-23-9)

ROGERS ARENA, VANCOUVER, BC

7:00 PM PST

SPORTSNET PACIFIC, SN1, CITY TV

In a way, I kind of feel sorry for Teddy Blueger. I mean, dude rolls out a 3rd period hat trick including the tying goal with less than a minute remaining in regulation, and all everyone is talking about is Elias Pettersson.

Was it a blown call? By this season's standards, absolutely. Was he the reason they lost in OT? Absolutely. Was head coach Rick Tocchet right to call EP40 out after the game? Absolutely. Was it excessive? Absolutely not. Was it blown out of proportion by the media? Absolutely not. I know it's really bog standard to call out the media anytime someone thinks they were out of line, but when the harshest reporting on it came from the rights holder, I think Tocchet's complaint doesn't hold up. It'd be a shame to see him be less than as honest as he's been since taking the reins in Vancouver, because it's been such a revelation.

After tonight, the Canucks have 33 games remaining, and their schedule in February after the All Star Weekend is absolutely brutal. It kicks off with a 5 game Eastern swing that sees them run the gauntlet of Carolina, Boston and a weekend pre-noon Pacific time back to back in Detroit and Washington. They follow that up with a game in Chicago before returning home. That is a stupid amount of travel, especially the back and forth between Boston, Detroit and Washington. And it's not just this trip. They face the Bruins twice this month, as well as twice against Detroit, plus Colorado, Winnipeg, Los Angeles, and Pittsburgh. 13 games in 24 days. If they can come through this with a winning record, there's a good chance they'll be able to hang onto the division lead.

And after a game that was a bit of a deviation from what we've been used to this season in terms of complete efforts, we're hoping that tonight we see the Canucks come out all guns blazing against a team that definitely took advantage of a road weary Vancouver squad last time they met.

The Blue Jackets haven't forgotten how to battle, and came through with a big win over the Calgary Flames Thursday night, but there's really no excuse for the Canucks to not show up for this one, looming vacation or not.

LINEUPS

Written on a sandbag as everyone prepares for another atmospheric river adventure is tonight's lineup, though it also might have been nhl dot com...

Blue Jackets projected lineup

Johnny Gaudreau -- Cole Sillinger -- Yegor Chinakhov

Adam Fantilli -- Boone Jenner -- Jack Roslovic

Kent Johnson -- Dmitri Voronkov -- Kirill Marchenko

Alexandre Texier -- Sean Kuraly -- Justin Danforth

Zach Werenski -- Erik Gudbranson

Ivan Provorov -- Damon Severson

Jake Bean -- Andrew Peeke

Elvis Merzlikins

Daniil Tarasov

Scratched: Emil Bemstrom, Mathieu Olivier, Nick Blankenburg

Injured: Adam Boqvist (upper body), Patrik Laine (clavicle)

Canucks projected lineup

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

Ilya Mikheyev -- Elias Pettersson -- Andrei Kuzmenko

Dakota Joshua -- Teddy Blueger -- Conor Garland

Nils Hoglander -- Nils Aman -- Sam Lafferty

Quinn Hughes -- Filip Hronek

Ian Cole -- Tyler Myers

Nikita Zadorov -- Noah Juulsen

Thatcher Demko

Casey DeSmith

Scratched: Linus Karlsson, Mark Friedman

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

Can we be blunt here? If the Canucks get bogged down in another low event game against a team whose top defensive pairing includes Eric Gudbranson, and without Patrik Laine, they should be put on blast.

GAME DAY CHATTER

GAME DAY BATTLE HYMN

I saw a documentary piece on Youtube the other day, that looked at the increasing numbers of females making an impact in the metal world. It was an interesting look at the things women have to endure to make it in a male dominated industry, but also about how metal is growing and living up to its ideals of being welcoming to anyone. One of the bands feature was SLAVES TO SIRENS, an all female band from Lebanon. This is a band that literally breaks laws to exist, and that my friends is metal as fuck.

So enjoy the game tonight, and make sure to check back as we get you set up for the All Star Canucks Takeover of Toronto as well as the stretch run and the upcoming NHL Trade Deadline. Go Canucks Go!

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!

This week's round table discusses the Canucks recent road trip, taking over the All Star Game in Toronto, and whether or not the Canucks should just go for it at the deadline and try to do the thing?

Once again, it's time for another edition of the Nucks Misconduct Round Table. I toss out some questions, and the NM writers offer up their completely sane and rational takes.

1- The Canucks have returned from their longest road trip of the season, and brought back 11 of a possible 14 points with them. So, pretty good... right?

KENT: Apart from the frustrating performance in St Louis, you really have to be excited about the way the Canucks handled an extremely tough road trip. Little rest, some really good teams, and a chance for the Canucks to battle their way through different scenarios and playing styles. All of these wins are going to help the Canucks come playoff time, especially the win over the Rangers. That was such an impressive win, a literal best on best of the two conferences and the Canucks absolutely clowned the Blueshirts. And even the loss in Columbus, given the epic journey they had to go through just to get to the game, getting a point out of that? Awesome. And what did we learn? Well, we still haven't seen their best hockey yet. We're seeing that the Canucks have a solid goaltending duo for the first time in almost a decade. We know they can adjust to different game plans against and find ways to win. And we know if you eat at Panda Express, bad things will happen.

jimmi - Pretty good? Astonishing. Stunning. Canucks became the 1st NHL team to win 15 games On The Road. That was not supposed to happen. This 7 Levels of Game Hell was specifically designed by the NHL Sadists and Schedulers Department to crush the Nucks, their fans and purge the established league pecking order of these wet coast interlopers. They failed. The Nucks did not. Other than that lousy start against the Blues and the trains, planes and buses to Carumbus ordeal, it was the best extended Nucking road trip I can recall from this century.

Westy - Should I continue with the gushing of praises? This road trip was a season crusher in years past. The resurrection of the Lotto Line was something that must have been discussed during the Holidays by the coaching staff and players, and the loss in St Louis was holy sign Taco saw to bring them back. The Trifecta in the Metro area was oh so sweet and it was good to see the Canucks play rough against Buffalo.

2- There are some who don't think the All Star Game is important, and an unnecessary distraction during the season. With this in mind, is it still not hilarious that the Canucks are sending more players to the game than the host Toronto Maple Leafs?

KENT: There are elements of the All Star Game that are great. The Skills Competition is fun, and makes for great tv. The game itself? Garbage. It bears little resemblance to the way the game is played, and so you see very little realistic game action. Not that we need scraps and dudes getting laid out, but if the All Star Game went away, we'd all survive, honest.

But anyway, even though they'll have the worst jerseys ever created, the Canucks with the most players (as well as Rick Tocchet and PA announcer Al Murdoch, best in the damn biz) in their barn in pretty funny. Not as funny as the dude tweeting about Nylander leading the voting when it showed Demko was over 100K ahead, but still funny.

jimmi - I'm not a fan or viewer of the league's PR spell-binding, self-congratulatory weekend of media fawning. But, is hilarious while CoTU is burning in controversy with the most important losing streak in hockey - will be required to be nice passive/aggressive hosts. To keep the NHL's Fluff Factor fun.

Westy - I am of the same ilk as Jimmi. I do not partake in All-Star viewing. As I have gotten older and crankier, I have less interest in watching the league trying to sell hockey to U.S. viewers. I am already a customer. I did vote for the 4 other Canucks to get into the All-Star game on NHL.com....multiple times. Fuck you Toronto.

3- So... those All Star Jerseys, eh?

KENT: But at least this year, the game isn't the worst thing about All Star Weekend, it's those godforsaken jerseys. True story: when the first picture dropped on Twitter (Get rekd, Elmo), I was in the ex-SBN Slack chat and I totally called it:

Just inexcusably awful and yet so on brand. Whoever thought this was a good idea should be publicly acknowledged, so that they can forever wear the shame of this abomination. I know the game needs to grow beyond the base of angry white dudes, but this ain't it, chief. Everyone's talking about the NHL because of this, but the old adage "There's no such thing as bad publicity" is a goddamn lie.

jimmi - Special weekend, special jerseys for the special fluff job.

Westy - Saturday morning cartoon edition. It shows that Bieber's people only let him use the primary colors, because the rest are so yummy to eat. I'm not sure who thought Bieber is the typical hockey fan and that I would relate to him. I'm not sure what age cohort is a Bieber fan anymore.

4- As of this writing, the Canucks are one point out of first place in the NHL again. In a year where we hoped that they'd be good enough to compete for a wild card slot, is it reasonable for the Canucks to say "Fuck it, Let's Do This!" and go all in at the trade deadline and load up for a potential Cup run?

KENT: The work that Jim Rutherford and Patrik Allvin and their staff have done since coming on board has already done two things: 1) Addressed the weaknesses the Canucks had through free agency signings, trades and better usage of assets they already had, and 2) shown us all just how incompetent the previous regime was.

If you see someone trying to give Benning any credit for the Canucks performance this season, you need to block them. No one needs a delusional bullshit artist like that in their lives. The organization was rotting from the inside, and between cleaning house in management, getting competent pro scouting, and making on ice personnel changes that paid immediate dividends, this is all on JR, PA and crew. You know things are good when we don't complain about this team's ownership. That alone, speaks volumes.

So, sitting in first in the division in mid-January, it should be obvious: Go for it. There are some prospects/roster players that, paired with this year's 1st round pick could help add a little more defensive depth and get that 2nd line center that can make the Canucks into a legitimate Cup threat. Yeah, I know it sounds crazy, but so did the St Louis Blues going from last place at Christmas to winning the Cup in the same season. They're close, and it would be nuts to try to do more than just be satisfied with making the playoffs.

jimmi - Alvin and the Cupmonks have done an excellent job. While they botched the Bruce firing, they've been firing on all cylinders since. Congrats to them. Frannie must be happy not to get harangued on the street anymore. Or more importantly, not vilified on NM in months.

Seems Trader Al (Trader Pat?) isn't going to stop now. 2nd line center does seem the obvious goto move. But, we will see if this is the time to trade the future, mortgage the farm team and go get a rental mercenary. Or two.

Westy - I am going to disagree with Kent just for the fun of it. GMPA has done a fine job of evaluating what was left behind and then made some changes. But.......Benning did draft Petey, Boeser, Hughes, Demko and traded for Miller. Was Benning a good GM or president? No...definitely not. He choices for coach were bad...his contract extensions were bad. His FA signings....bad

GMPA is now in a position that will define how we speak about him for the next 4 years. And Petey is making this decision more stressful by not negotiating during the season. The trade deadline might be a quiet one for this team because you might not want to fuck with the chemistry and secondly, you don't want to take on a contract that hurts the team next year or 3 years down the line. I personally would let this team ride out the year. It's easier to get by in for other changes if the team falters in the playoffs. Trade a player now and the team's ju-ju might change.

5- OPEN ICE: Here's your chance to let fly with anything you like or dislike about the season so far, Canucks related or not. And.... GO!

KENT: I have been impressed with the quality of the hockey in the PWHL so far in their debut. The jerseys leave something to be desired, but it's entertaining hockey, and it's going to do more to grow hockey than anything the NHL is doing right now. I love that the Canucks and Jets are doing so good. I'd love to see those two go head to head in the Western Conference Final.

As far as things I dislike so far, officiating continues to be an issue league wide. I know it's never going to happen, but some transparency and accountability for game officials, and a complete overhaul of the player safety department are long overdue.

jimmi - I dislike the Nucks have cheated us out of the incremental improvement scenario we were promised. As well as the anxious last wildcard spot chase.

I LIKE, really, really LIKE Nucks have cheated us out of the incremental improvement scenario. And spared us last wildcard spot nervosa. Conflicted fan feelings - NM mainstay for decades - has now been warped into a new, winning era. I'm trying to keep up.

Agree with Kent, as ever, the biased game-altering beer league officiating continues to be the NHL's forte. Can hardly wait for the Violence-On-Ice section of the league's May entertainment schedule. It's a delicate balance operating a TV Playoff War with that pesky rulebook being quoted on the internet.

Westy - I can't believe the two guys above me are still complaining about the refs after watching hockey for a combined 140 years. The only consistency is the refs inconsistency.

I hate the way the way Petey is fucking with the fanbase. Vancouver fans have been loyal to many players over 52 years and they desperately want another Swede to love and cherish. And yet it seems that Petey wants more.

I love Rick Tocchet so far. He is honest in his interviews and seems to have the players respect and they have bought into team, which has really helped some individuals improve their numbers.

I hate believing that this team is really good is the regular season, but thinking they won't have a playoff mode.

No Lotto luck, no problem! The Sabres kept the Canucks All Star Game bound trio off the scoreboard, and still lost. Sam Lafferty FTW, bitches! So after a grueling, playoff-style win the Canucks managed to get to Columbus to take on the lowly Blue Jackets in an early game to end this road swing.

CANUCKS (29-11-3) at BUFFALO SABRES (13-21-9)

NATIONWIDE ARENA, COLUMBUS, OH

10:00 AM PST

SPORTSNET PACIFIC

To say this road trip's been a success is a massive understatement. After a frustratingly close loss in St Louis, the Canucks ran roughshod over some of the best in East, each one more impressive than the last, wrapping it up with a gritty 1-0 win in balmy Buffalo Saturday afternoon.

After the loss in St Louis, as we've seen all season from Rick Tocchet and his staff, they set out to make a few tweaks to address what didn't work in the previous game. So after a rare lack of offensive output against the Blues, Tocchet reunited the Lotto Line and they absolutely dominated the Devils, Rangers, Islanders and Penguins. 27 combined points, led by Elias Pettersson who set an NHL record with 4 consecutive game winning goals on the road.

Each game showcased some of the different facets of the Canucks new era, and in a way, the win over Buffalo Saturday was as impressive as the wins over the Rangers and Penguins.

While playoff hockey is but a dream for the Canucks expansion cousins, the game had all the feeling of a meaningful post-season battle. Two goaltenders stopping anything thrown their way. hits that had a little more oompf to them than your usual January afternoon contest, and so much downright feeling and emotion, something we've not seen in years.

And from the way J.T. Miller laid out a tough (but legal) hit, then answered the bell twice for it, to the composure the Canucks showed when the Sabres relentlessly targeted Pettersson and Quinn Hughes while the officials flat out refused to get involved. It would have been easy to give the Sabres what they wanted (and get suckered into even more penalties in the process), but the Canucks stayed composed, killed off the penalties, and got another stellar performance from Thatcher Demko for their 5th straight road win.

And that leads us to today's game. And while common sense tells us this should be an fairly simple two points, given how not so good the Blue Jackets are, and all the injuries to some of their best players they're dealing with, it has all the makings of one of those trap games that we've seen bite the Canucks on the ass over the years.

Fortunately, we've seen few examples of not taking an opponent seriously this season, save for that one loss to the San Jose Sharks. The Canucks taking a night off just isn't really a thing with Rick Tocchet, and that's one of the reasons they're sitting atop the NHL standings at the moment. Would you risk mailing it in with Rick Tocchet watching you?

And it plays right into the Canucks mindset under Tocchet: They haven't won anything yet, so no one should be surprised if they lay a beating on the BJ's on this American holiday Monday. The Canucks are for real, and here's something people need to wrap their heads around: They haven't even played their best hockey this season. There's something happening in Vancouver that no one saw coming, at least not this early, but if you're not on board to just have some fun, and see where this goes, you should be. It's amazing to have not just fun, entertaining hockey to watch again, but a team that doesn't stress us out as we watch talented players wasting years of their prime with no help. There's hope again, and damn is it good to feel this way again.

LINEUPS

Scrawled in nacho cheese sauce along the side of that god-forsaken cannon was this potential lineup. It was also reportedly found 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: Mark Friedman, Linus Karlsson, Noah Juulsen

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

Blue Jackets projected lineup

Johnny Gaudreau -- Cole Sillinger -- Yegor Chinakhov

Kent Johnson -- Adam Fantilli -- Emil Bemstrom

Dimitri Voronkov -- Jack Roslovic -- Kirill Marchenko

Alexandre Texier -- Sean Kuraly -- Justin Danforth

Damon Severson -- Adam Boqvist

Ivan Provorov -- Andrew Peeke

Jake Bean -- Erik Gudbranson

Elvis Merzlikins

Spencer Martin

Scratched: David Jiricek, Mathieu Olivier, Daniil Tarasov, Brendan Gaunce

Injured: Boone Jenner (jaw), Patrik Laine (clavicle), Nick Blankenburg (upper body), Zach Werenski (ankle)

It would appear that the Jackets aren't going to try and go for the feel-good story and start former Canucks Spencer Martin and Brendan Gaunce. They will have Erik Gudbranson though, so uh, yeah. They will want to make sure that 2nd line with Lower Mainland native Kent Johnson and 2nd overall pick from last year's draft Adam Fantilli don't get the time and space needed to create havoc.

It looked like Casey DeSmith was going to get the start on Saturday, which instead went to Demko as we know. Now they're showing Demko as the starter today so who knows? No other changes as the Canucks look to notch a season high sixth straight win.

GAME DAY CHATTER

These are the kinds of hardships that will make them battle ready for the postseason...

GAME DAY BATTLE HYMN

This past weekend was a massive one for Vancouver metalheads as 3 Inches of Blood reunited to play three sold out shows at the Commodore Ballroom. One of the best metal acts this country's ever produced, and it sucked that I couldn't be there to see them live one last time. Still holding out hope this'll spark the desire for a new album though. There's a full video of night one on youtube, but we'll give you 'Deadly Sinners', a hell of a pump up tune to get you ready for today's game.

Enjoy this daytime hockey if you can, 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!

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