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

It's another Hughes family reunion as Quinn and the Canucks take on brothers Jack and Luke in a battle for Hughes family supremacy. Also, the New Jersey Devils are involved.

Vancouver Canucks (16-8-1) vs New Jersey Devils (11-10-1)

7:00 PM PST

ROGERS ARENA, VANCOUVER, BC

SPORTSNET PACIFIC, MSG NETWORK, NHL NETWORK

Fresh off a big Pacific Division win Saturday night in Calgary, the Canucks are back at it, after a luxurious two day break. A win tonight is vital, in that it will move them to within two points of first place Vegas, and also ensure that the LA Kings stay at least two points behind them.

After struggling through November compared to their torrid start to the season, the Canucks kicked December off on the right foot Saturday night with a 4-3 win over the Flames in Calgary. They're beginning a stretch of five straight at home, beginning with a team that they've been finding hard to handle of late: the New Jersey Devils.

It's the first time that Quinn Hughes will face off against both of his siblings in an NHL game, and while the Canucks will be focused on securing two points, the eyes of hockey fans across North America are definitely trained on tonight's contest. The Devils have won four of the last five meetings between these teams, including both games last year. And while the Canucks have been one of the true surprises of the NHL this season, the Devils have too, only not in a good way. Many had the Devils pencilled in to be Cup contenders in the East, but they've stumbled out of the gate, and find themselves four points out of a wild card slot in the Eastern Conference. They're 4-6-0 in their last ten games, and are hoping this Western road swing will help them get back on track.

And while the Hughes brothers matchup is getting all the press, there's one other factor to tonight's game that shouldn't be overlooked. Travis Green is set for his first appearance behind the visitors bench since he was fired as the Canucks head coach two years ago today. If that's not some sort of universal karma/schedule guy trying to mess with people, I dunno what is.

LINEUPS

We found this potential lineup spray-painted on the side of a transport trailer parked alongside Highway 1 out in the valley, but I am pretty sure they got it from nhl dot com.

Devils projected lineup

Erik Haula -- Jack Hughes -- Tyler Toffoli

Ondrej Palat -- Nico Hischier -- Jesper Bratt

Timo Meier -- Dawson Mercer -- Alexander Holtz

Curtis Lazar -- Michael McLeod -- Nathan Bastian

Jonas Siegenthaler -- Simon Nemec

Kevin Bahl -- John Marino

Colin Miller -- Luke Hughes

Vitek Vanecek

Akira Schmid

Scratched: Chris Tierney

Injured: Tomas Nosek (foot), Dougie Hamilton (torn pectoral muscle)

Suspended: Brendan Smith

Canucks projected lineup

Ilya Mikheyev -- Elias Pettersson -- Sam Lafferty

Andrei Kuzmenko -- J.T. Miller -- Brock Boeser

Dakota Joshua -- Teddy Blueger -- Conor Garland

Nils Hoglander -- Nils Aman -- Linus Karlsson

Quinn Hughes -- Filip Hronek

Ian Cole -- Noah Juulsen

Nikita Zadorov -- Tyler Myers

Thatcher Demko

Casey DeSmith

Scratched: Phillip Di Giuseppe, Mark Friedman

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

No changes for the Canucks, as PDG continues to ride pine in favour of Linus Karlsson, while Sam Lafferty continues his improbable run on the Canucks first line. With every passing game, that signing looks better for Jim Rutherford and Patrik Allvin. While it may not sit well with some, Noah Juulsen is in again in favour of Mark Friedman.

The Devils found out recently that they'll be without Dougie Hamilton long term after he suffered a torn pectoral muscle. It'll be Vitek Vanacek vs Thatcher Demko in the crease tonight.

GAME DAY CHATTER

GAME DAY BATTLE HYMN

While the UK may be the birthplace of heavy metal, it always seemed somewhat lacking when it came to contributions to thrash metal. Apart from bands like Xentrix, Onslaught and Hellbastard, UK thrash acts never really seemed to move the needle. That's all changed over the last decade, with the New Wave Of Thrash Metal. Bands like Evile, SSS, Shrapnel and Pest Control have put out some fantastic stuff, and while the first three may be a little more familiar to metal heads, Pest Control is one you don't wanna sleep on.

Born in Leeds during the lockdown, their debut album 'Don't Test The Pest' is holding up as one of the better thrash discs of 2023. Check out their video for 'Enjoy The Show'!

This one should be fun! Enjoy the game, eh? 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.

Call it regression. Call it exhaustion. Call it whatever you want, but that loss in Calgary wasn't pretty. Pay close attention to how the Canucks respond, as they get ready to do another stupid 5 games in 8 nights run.

Vancouver Canucks (12-3-1) vs Seattle Kraken (6-8-4)

7:00PM PST

ROGERS ARENA, VANCOUVER, BC

CBC, SPORTSNET, CITY

We knew a regulation loss was coming, it just sucks that it had to come against the Flames. They're not that good, and combined with the aforementioned 5th game in 8 nights scenario, and some mind-blowingly bad officiating, and this one was done before puck drop.

Thankfully, they're at home, and have had a day's rest, and this next 5 game set sees them play Seattle and San Jose twice, broken up by a highly anticipated match against another of the best in the west when they travel to Denver to take on the Colorado Avalanche. But let's not get ahead of ourselves here. This is another Western Conference game, and if we're being honest, these are the truly important ones. Ensuring they stay in the top 3 in the Pacific Division and home ice in round one of the playoffs is the goal, and considering how well they've done against Western opponents so far, garnering an impressive 16 of 18 possible points so far. Rattling off four of the next 5 will go a long way to ensuring their post-season drought comes to an end this year.

The anticipated Canucks regression gets a lot of print space right now, but I think more should be said about what's happening just South of Vancouver. After an impressive sophomore season, complete with playoff games and their first ever playoff series win in that seven game series victory over the Colorado Avalanche. The Kraken have struggled so far this season, including losing four straight to start the year. They're gonna need to go on a run in order to make up the ground they've lost, as they're two points out of the last wild card slot at the moment, and they've played more games than any other team in the West. It's not looking good, and it shouldn't be a shock if they can't pull this off.

That's not to suggest that the Canucks should take this, or any game lightly, and one of the more impressive things so far this season is how the Canucks have responded to losses. Take the way they responded in Montreal after a frustrating loss in Toronto the night before. Or the win in Florida after dropping a heart breaker to the Tampa Bay Lightning. This team is mentally stronger than in the past, and that's going to pay dividends as the season wears on.

LINEUPS

Scrawled in spraypaint on an overpass along Highway 1 near Chilliwack was this potential lineup. Or was it nhl dot com?

Kraken projected lineup

Jared McCann -- Matthew 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

Philipp Grubauer

Joey Daccord

Scratched: Jaycob Megna, Andrew Poturalski

Injured: Andre Burakovsky (upper body)

Canucks projected lineup

Andrei Kuzmenko -- Elias Pettersson -- Ilya Mikheyev

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

Dakota Joshua -- Teddy Blueger -- Conor Garland

Nils Hoglander -- Sam Lafferty -- Anthony Beauvillier

Quinn Hughes -- Filip Hronek

Ian Cole -- Noah Juulsen

Akito Hirose -- Tyler Myers

Thatcher Demko

Casey DeSmith

Scratched: Mark Friedman

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

The good news is that Andrei Kuzmenko will return to the lineup tonight. The not so good news? Noah Juulsen still can't seem to play his way to the pressbox. Akito Hirose will draw in with Tyler Myers tonight.

This should be a winnable game for the Canucks, who are going to need to see more 5 on 5 production to bolster a lethal power play. They're also going to need to be better on the PK. They've improved a lot since last season, but it's still not where it needs to be.

GAME DAY CHATTER

This is the Gary Bettman expansion dilemma. It's either a bare minimum against divisional rivals, or not getting to see some of the Eastern teams at all. Personally, I think the NHL has done sweet fuck all to try and build a Vancouver/Seattle rivalry, and I would rather see them play each other four times than against the bloody Oilers or Flames. It's insane that they play those two as well as the Sharks four times, yet their geographically closest opponent will only appear here once this season.

GAME DAY BATTLE HYMN

Emerging from the ashes of Texas thrash kings POWER TRIP after the tragic death of their vocalist Riley Gale, FUGITIVE have come to continue along the path forged by the Dallas crossover bangers. This single is available as a 7" from 20 Buck Spin Records, and we should expect a full length from them next year. This is one of those tunes that really, truly makes me miss the moshpits from back in the day.

Enjoy the game, everyone. Go Canucks Go!

A loss keeps the Canucks microscopically slim Draft Lottery hopes alive. A win could help keep Calgary from making the playoffs. How the hell are we supposed to choose here?

VANCOUVER CANUCKS (35-36-7) vs CALGARY FLAMES (37-27-15)

7:00 PM PST

ROGERS ARENA, VANCOUVER, BC

TV: SN, CBC, CITY TV. RADIO: SN650

Talk about a difficult choice. On the one hand, we have an outcome that could lead to the hockey gods finally deciding that the Canucks have suffered enough, and allow them to win the coveted first overall pick in this summer's entry draft, allowing hometown boy Connor Bedard to play for the team he loved growing up. On the other hand, we get a moral victory wrapped in a real one, as we give the Flames just two opportunities to try and overtake the Winnipeg Jets for the final wild card slot in the Western Conference.

There's a genuine appeal to helping hammer a nail on the coffin of this season for the Flames. They might be the closest thing the Canucks have to a bitter rival, given the number of epic playoff battles they've had. Honestly though, if losing this game (and the remaining three on the road next week) results in the Canucks winning the draft lottery, it would all be worth it.

It's getting harder and harder to stay tuned in to what they're doing on the ice right now. So much of what they do over the course of sixty minutes is just so uninspiring and unwatchable, save for a few moments of brilliance from the usual suspects. As a fan base we've been suffering for years now, going through a drought that is the worst in this team's existence. I don't think this even gets talked about enough, that there isn't a ten year stretch at any point in the history of the Canucks where they miss the playoffs eight out of those ten times. I'm tired of this shit, and pissed off that they continue to do what amounts to nothing year after year after fucking year.

So while it would be delicious fun to spoil the night for Jacob Markstrom, and see Milan Lucic pout and whine even more than usual, I really don't wanna see it. They need to just roll over, take the L and hope for a miracle, because unless there's an ownership change this summer, that's the only way we'll see meaningful change come to the Vancouver Canucks.

LINEUPS

Courtesy of nhl.com, this is what we might see on the ice at the Rog tonight:

Flames projected lineup

Andrew Mangiapane -- Elias Lindholm -- Tyler Toffoli

Jonathan Huberdeau -- Mikael Backlund -- Blake Coleman

Nick Ritchie -- Nazem Kadri -- Dillon Dube

Milan Lucic -- Trevor Lewis -- Walker Duehr

MacKenzie Weegar -- Rasmus Andersson

Noah Hanifin -- Chris Tanev

Nikita Zadorov -- Troy Stecher

Jacob Markstrom

Dan Vladar

Scratched: Jakob Pelletier, Adam Ruzicka, Matt Coronato, Michael Stone, Dennis Gilbert

Injured: None

Canucks projected lineup

Vitali Kravtsov -- Elias Pettersson -- Conor Garland

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

Dakota Joshua -- Nils Aman -- Jack Studnicka

Andrei Kuzmenko -- Sheldon Dries -- Anthony Beauvillier

Quinn Hughes -- Kyle Burroughs

Akito Hirose -- Tyler Myers

Ethan Bear -- Cole McWard

Thatcher Demko

Collin Delia

Scratched: Aidan McDonough

Injured: Guillaume Brisebois (undisclosed), Filip Hronek (shoulder), Vasily Podkolzin (hand), Christian Wolanin (lower body), Noah Juulsen (lower body), Oliver Ekman-Larsson (ankle), Travis Dermott (undisclosed), Ilya Mikheyev (torn ACL), Tanner Pearson (hand), Tucker Poolman (upper body)

Well, those are... lines. I don't think anyone anticipated Kuzmenko and Beauvillier on the fourth line, but here we are. Akito Hirose and Cole McWard get a chance to play again on Fan Appreciation night, and Thatcher Demko will try and keep his shutout streak going after a solid performance against the woeful Chicago Blackhawks Thursday night.

GAME DAY CHATTER

GAME DAY BATTLE HYMN

The word legendary gets tossed around in the music industry, but when it comes to punk, you better believe it when they attach it to the Dayglo Abortions. Victoria's controversial, and immensely influential hardcore act are still going strong, and with the news of original member Murray 'Cretin' Acton's recent cancer diagnosis, showing them some support would be a good thing, like snagging a copy of this Dayglos tribute album, featuring DEICIDE, GWAR, SNFU, MUNICIPAL WASTE, GHOUL, AGNOSTIC FRONT and others. So from that album, here's MUNICIPAL WASTE with 'Black Sabbath'.

Enjoy the game. Go Canucks Go, I guess.

VANCOUVER CANUCKS (31-33-5) vs VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS (43-21-6)

7:00 PM PST

ROGERS ARENA, VANCOUVER, BC

TV: SN PACIFIC. RADIO: SN650

I know it may come across as a tad jarring, especially coming from this writer, but I think the Canucks might have suffered from poor goaltending this season. Now, that's not to say that Thatcher Demko was a beast in the games he played before getting injured, because that's easy to disprove, but Spencer Martin was really in over his head, man.

Sure, there's few goalies that could have thrived with the porous Canucks defence in front of them, but there were so many losses where they just needed a save, and didn't get one. And while Demko had a rough start, and it was likely due to playing hurt, he's almost back to a .500 record, and is sure to pass that, leaving Martin as the only goalie the Canucks played this year with a losing record. I'm not suggesting he's the only reason this has been such a brutal season, but a healthy Thatcher Demko might have had them in contention for one of the playoff spots in the West. Add in the much improved defensive play, and while I still think the sample size is small and could just as easily be similar to the Bruce Bump last season, the Canucks are a much better team at the moment than they've been this season.

https://twitter.com/BigHeadHcky/status/1637903185129148416?s=20

 

And it's that impressive defensive play that has me feeling, well... positive. Yeah, it's weird, and I still can't shake the feeling it's just going to be more of the same next season, but after the way the Canucks were able to grind out a win against LA on Saturday night, heading into tonight's contest against Vegas isn't nearly as frightening as it should be. Instead of a battle between one of the best in the West against the lowly Canucks, it's two teams with 8-2-0 records in their last ten games, waiting to see who blinks first.

That's not a diss against Vegas, just a recognition of the Canucks playing better since the coaching change, and how they've fared against Western Conference opponents. Sure, Vegas begrudgingly gets credit for being as good as they are in spite of the number of injuries they've had to deal with this season, but seeing them get bounced in the first round shouldn't come as a shock to anyone when it happens.

LINEUPS

Courtesy of nhl.com, this is what you should expect to see tonight:

Golden Knights projected lineup

Ivan Barbashev -- Jack Eichel -- Jonathan Marchessault

Reilly Smith -- William Karlsson -- Pavel Dorofeyev

Brett Howden -- Chandler Stephenson -- Michael Amadio

Paul Cotter -- Teddy Blueger -- Phil Kessel

Alec Martinez -- Alex Pietrangelo

Brayden McNabb -- Shea Theodore

Nicolas Hague -- Zach Whitecloud

Jonathan Quick

Logan Thompson

Scratched: Ben Hutton

Injured: Mark Stone (back), Laurent Brossoit (lower body), Nicolas Roy (lower body), William Carrier (lower body), Adin Hill (lower body), Keegan Kolesar (upper body)

Canucks projected lineup

Andrei Kuzmenko -- Elias Pettersson -- Anthony Beauvillier

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

Dakota Joshua -- Nils Aman -- Conor Garland

Vitali Kravtsov -- Sheldon Dries -- Vasily Podkolzin

Quinn Hughes -- Noah Juulsen

Christian Wolanin -- Tyler Myers

Guillaume Brisebois -- Ethan Bear

Thatcher Demko

Collin Delia

Scratched: Jack Studnicka, Aidan McDonough, Kyle Burroughs

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

Looks like it's Studnicka and Burroughs out and Kravtsov and Brisebois back in tonight. Demko is the starter after a solid performance from Collin Delia on Sunday against Anaheim. THe Golden Knights choosing to start Jonathan Quick is certainly a choice, especially given the way he's played against Vancouver over the past couple years. We'll just let them figure that out for themselves, though.

GAME DAY CHATTER

https://twitter.com/Canucks/status/1638259179214237705?s=20
https://twitter.com/Canucks/status/1638261697495420928?s=20
https://twitter.com/Canucks/status/1638263708483833859?s=20
https://twitter.com/Canucks/status/1637943060037537793?s=20

GAME DAY BATTLE HYMN

If you're at all familiar with German metal, you know the big name bands: KREATOR, SODOM, DESTRUCTION, TANKARD, among others, but a band that dates back to the early days, and like the others is still going strong is HOLY MOSES. Featuring vocalist Sabina Klassen, who sounds as vicious as ever, they continue to produce kickass, aggressive thrash worthy of a listen. Check out 'Cult Of The Machine' from 'Invisible Queen', which hits stores in April.

https://youtu.be/O9HL-GAbq2M

Enjoy the game, folks. Go Canucks Go.

VANCOUVER CANUCKS (29-33-5) vs LOS ANGELES KINGS (40-20-9)

7:00 PM PST

CRYPTO.COM ARENA, LOS ANGELES, CA

TV: SN PACIFIC, SN360, CITY. RADIO: SN650

While I would hesitate to call Thursday's 3-2 loss in Arizona a rude awakening, I do think it was a bit of a reality check. It definitely harshed the buzz after that five game winning streak. Only a fool would have thought it could continue, though, especially when your power play goes 0-5 on the night.

So now we wait to see how Rick Tocchet responds, and in turn, how the Canucks respond after a loss to team that's really not that good (and yes, I am aware of who the Vancouver Canucks are, thank you for asking). The task ahead is a tough one, as they take on the Kings before heading up to San Jose tomorrow. LA may not be a serious Cup contender, but they're making their way back after a rebuild that's seen them focus on building through the draft. Gosh, that sounds great. Anyway, they've been on an absolute tear of late, going 8-1-1 in their last ten, and are definitely going to be better than we saw back in November, when the Canucks beat them 4-1.

LINEUPS

Kings projected lineup

Quinton Byfield -- Anze Kopitar -- Adrian Kempe

Trevor Moore -- Phillip Danault -- Viktor Arvidsson

Alex Iafallo -- Blake Lizotte -- Gabriel Vilardi

Carl Grundstrom -- Rasmus Kupari -- Arthur Kaliyev

Mikey Anderson -- Drew Doughty

Vladislav Gavrikov -- Matt Roy

Alexander Edler -- Jordan Spence

Joonas Korpisalo

Pheonix Copley

Scratched: Zack MacEwen, Sean Walker, Jaret Anderson-Dolan

Injured: Kevin Fiala (lower body), Sean Durzi (upper body)

I wouldn't at all be surprised to see changes to both teams lineups that are listed here.

It could be interesting to see who comes out in place of Bear, especially given how much better the Canucks have been playing defensively of late. Also, you have to think the Canucks will be eager to get Aidan McDonough in for his first NHL game. On the other bench, I would imagine that the recently acquired Zack MacEwan will get into the lineup for the Kings, and he'll be eager to have a big night against his former team. Prepare for a long night of tweets about toughness, I guess.

GAME DAY CHATTER

https://twitter.com/Canucks/status/1637188489967202304?s=20

GAME DAY BATTLE HYMN

Yeah, I know yesterday was St Paddy's Day, but you shouldn't need a holiday to enjoy some traditional Irish music. How about GAMA BOMB covering the classic 'If I Should Fall From Grace With God' by THE POGUES, featuring a guest appearance by Spider Stacy of the Pogues. So nurse that hangover and crank this one!

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

7:00 PM PST

ROGERS ARENA, VANCOUVER, BC

TV: SN PACIFIC. RADIO: SN650

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

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

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

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

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

LINEUPS

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

Stars projected lineup

Jason Robertson -- Roope Hintz -- Joe Pavelski

Jamie Benn -- Wyatt Johnston -- Evgenii Dadonov

Mason Marchment -- Max Domi -- Ty Dellandrea

Joel Kiviranta -- Radek Faksa -- Fredrik Olofsson

Miro Heiskanen -- Colin Miller

Esa Lindell -- Jani Hakanpaa

Ryan Suter -- Joel Hanley

Matt Murray

Jake Oettinger

Scratched: Nils Lundkvist

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

Canucks projected lineup

Andrei Kuzmenko -- Elias Pettersson -- Anthony Beauvillier

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

Dakota Joshua -- Nils Aman -- Conor Garland

Vitali Kravtsov -- Sheldon Dries -- Vasily Podkolzin

Quinn Hughes -- Noah Juulsen

Guillaume Brisebois -- Tyler Myers

Christian Wolanin -- Kyle Burroughs

Thatcher Demko

Collin Delia

Scratched: Jack Studnicka

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

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

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

GAME DAY CHATTER

GAME DAY BATTLE HYMN

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

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