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

For the first time since 2015, there's playoff hockey at Rogers Arena. Towel Power is back, as the Canucks open their first round series against the Nashville Predators.

VANCOUVER CANUCKS VS NASHVILLE PREDATORS

7PM PST

ROGERS ARENA, VANCOUVER, BC

TV: CBC, SPORTSNET, SPORTSNET 360, ESPN

I'm not saying it's been a long time since there was a home playoff game in Vancouver, but the last time fans bought playoff tickets we probably didn't imagine how bad the next 8 years would be, and apart from a loophole playoff appearance in 2020's bubble Cup, that we'd be missing out for that whole stretch.

It's been hard to be a Canucks fan, but not much harder than the post-2011 era. We've seen some shit. We endured almost a decade of excruciatingly bad management and coaching. We saw the final years of the Sedin Brothers frittered away, and we saw a team that for a while was Must See TV everytime they played turned into You Can't Make Me Watch This. Matt Bartkowski. Luca Sbisa. Jay Beagle. Michael Del Zotto. Loui Eriksson. Adam Gaudette. Markus Granlund. Erik Gudbranson. Olli Juolevi. Jayson Megna. Derrick Pouliot. Antoine Roussel. Tim Schaller. Jack Skille. Jake Virtanen. Like I said, we've seen some shit.

We went from Wizardous Sedinery to whatever the hell the last few years were. And while Jim Benning managed to acquire some of the core, it was what's happened since he was replaced by Jim Rutherford and Patrik Allvin. And even then, as they began to retool around this team's stars, it took another coaching change for everything to fall into place for the Canucks.

We'd love to tell you that we saw this coming. And we did get a hint that the dark days were coming to an end when Rick Tocchet took over behind the bench. But there's not a soul alive that had the Canucks not just making the playoffs, but being in the hunt for the Presidents' Trophy until the final days of the season. There's been lots of talk about the Canucks' high PDO, that so much of their success is based on luck. That's pretty insulting when you look at the way Tocchet and his coaching staff transformed this team, getting the entire roster to buy in on playing 200 ft hockey every night, and being accountable for every shift. I mean, he's turned Tyler Myers into a reliable NHL defenceman!

Sure, there's definite room for improvement, and this could all end in a few days, but there's an actual path to the Western Conference Finals here. Get out of the first round and amazing things can happen. Look at the 1982 run, where the Canucks, proud owners of a 77 point season, lost just two games in three rounds, knocking off Calgary, Los Angeles and Chicago before getting steamrolled by that juggernaut New York Islanders squad. It all starts with one win, and then anything can happen.

It's been said that as far as first round opponents go, this is the matchup that the Canucks should want. And there's some truth to that, given how these teams matched up this season. The Canucks swept the season series, outscoring Nashville 13-6. And while that came in the first half of the season, before the Preds went on their ridiculous tear, they've still struggled against contenders at times. At the end of the day, when you match these teams up on offence and goaltending, the Canucks have the edge, and should be able to advance to round two. We all remember the emergence of Thatcher Demko in the bubble playoffs, when he damn near stole the series from Vegas. Demko's been amazing this year, and eager to help lead the Canucks to victory.

What's going to get it done is a continuation of the team's mindset on defence. They've done a massive turnaround in terms of how much harder they are to generate offence against compared to the past few seasons, and do a fantastic job on breakouts when they win battles for loose pucks. They're much more physical than previous versions of the team, and in the past you'd think they'd struggle against a team like Nashville, but this season the Canucks showed physically they can go toe to toe with anyone.

What has to get better is secondary scoring. It was rolling early in the season, but dried up for long stretches. If we can get guys like Ilya Mikheyev, Elias Lindholm, Teddy Blueger and Sam Lafferty pitching in and taking a bit of the load off Elias Pettersson, JT Miller, Brock Boeser and Quinn Hughes. And hey, the trend of getting more scoring from the back end was a pleasant surprise this season, and will definitely help them if they want to advance.

It will be interesting to see how Tocchet handles that top Nashville line of Filip Forsberg, Ryan O'Reilly and Gustav Nyqvist. They could throw the Miller/Boeser/Suter line, or go with Lindholm, Dakota Joshua and Conor Garland.

They'll also need the once terrifying power play to become a threat again. It's fallen off badly, but if they can just simplify things and get back to what was working, it'll be a deterrent the way it was earlier in the year.

LINEUPS

It is my pleasure to let you know that these potential Game One lineups are according to the ol' nhl dot com thingy:

Predators projected lineup

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

Mark Jankowski -- Colton Sissons -- Jason Zucker

Anthony Beauvillier -- Tommy Novak -- Luke Evangelista

Cole Smith -- Michael McCarron -- Kiefer Sherwood

Ryan McDonagh -- Roman Josi

Jeremy Lauzon -- Alexandre Carrier

Spencer Stastney -- Luke Schenn

Juuse Saros

Kevin Lankinen

Scratched: Tyson Barrie, Jaret Anderson-Dolan, Cody Glass, Dante Fabbro, Gustavs Grigals

Injured: None

Canucks projected lineup

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

Nils Hoglander -- Elias Pettersson -- Sam Lafferty

Dakota Joshua -- Elias Lindholm -- Conor Garland

Phillip Di Giuseppe -- Teddy Blueger -- Ilya Mikheyev

Quinn Hughes -- Filip Hronek

Carson Soucy -- Tyler Myers

Ian Cole -- Nikita Zadorov

Thatcher Demko

Casey DeSmith

Scratched: Mark Friedman, Nils Aman, Noah Juulsen, Vasily Podkolzin, Arturs Silovs

Injured: None

Both teams head into this series 'healthy', and with no shocking lineup moves. It is a little surprising that PDG is in over Podkolzin, but unless he lights it up, expect that to change as the series goes on. Other than that, the lines are pretty much the same as the past few contests for the Canucks.

GAME DAY CHATTER

GAME DAY BATTLE HYMN

We've been waiting so damn long for this, it's time to get loud, friends! Let's crank up some of Ireland's finest and make sure you've got the beverages chilled. Playoff hockey is back, so Shut Up and Shout!

We're stoked to have been able to spend this season actually enjoying Canucks hockey again, as well as playoffs on Rogers Arena ice. Here's to a long run, and bringing 54 years of heartbreak and frustration to a close. 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!

It's the return of the 11th most popular Canucks panel discussion! Our first round table of 2024 discusses what to do about Andrei Kuzmenko, the Lotto Line, what the Canucks need to do to prepare for this thing called 'playoff hockey', and some around the NHL nonsense. As a reminder, the opinions shared are of the individuals and not the blog itself, and those of Westy and Jimmi should be taken with a grain of salt, followed by a shot of tequila and some lime. Let's go!

1- Andrei Kuzmenko has a rotating door on the ol' doghouse right now. What should the Canucks do about the struggling Russian?

Kent- There's a number of people who think that they should be exploring a trade to try and get something for Kuzmenko right away, but I'm not sure that now is the time. We're hearing both he and his agent are committed to sticking with the Canucks and trying to work through this. And it may well be that he can do that. As far as trading him, he definitely makes an attractive piece of trade bait at the deadline, and with teams already asking about him, they could use him to solidify any deficiencies as they look at a post-season appearance.

jimmi - Just last year some wanted to trade Brock as well. Goal scorers can be streaky. And when the streak is not streak we seek... trade 'em! With his 8 goals and $5.5M contract, uncertain his trade value is worth the deal versus letting him spinoff the sophomore funk, marinate in the Taco teachings and come out the other side with 50 goals and +15 next season. Or this season. That would be good as well.

Westy - Kuz was not coached last year by Boudreau. He was allowed to float around and shoot and then not come back on defense. The last games of the year were spent with Taco, trying to learn a new system and this year Kuz is struggling to realize that both sides of the system are being looked at. He will last the year in Van, just do to his contract and lack of production this year. He is also needed in case the injury....sorry, when the injury faeries show up.

2- To try and kickstart the top 6, Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet reunited the Lotto Line, and to say it worked is a mild understatement. Do they keep Petey, Boes & Millsy together, or do they have to split them out of necessity because of the need for a legitimate 2nd line centre?

Kent- Obviously the way the Lotto Line clicked on Saturday in New Jersey was encouraging, and we'll have to see how they continue to play to see if this pans out, but if they can get Pius Suter, Kuzmenko and Ilya Mikheyev rolling there won't be a need for it. Suter's been fantastic since his return, and if there's any chemistry with them, they ought to explore it for as long as possible.

jimmi - Hope Taco keeps the Lotto Line together - despite Pete disliking the label. It sure seems like Kuz will thrive being with Suter. As Kuz took the most shots (6) of any Nucks forward last game. With increased shooting percentage, increased confidence and goals will not be far behind.

Westy - Keep'em going this month, get as many points as you can against non-divisional opponents and then split them up again after Feb 21. The Canucks don't see another Pacific team until then. Save the Lotto Line for the first round of the playoffs.

3- So get this: After the season ends, there's this whole new season, right? And like, only some of the teams get to be in it, and you play the same team until one of them wins four games, then you play someone else. And there's this big trophy and everything. Anyway, it looks like the Canucks are gonna do this thing. What should they do to like, you know, be better for this thing?

Kent- Heading into this season, just to have this team compete for a wild card slot would be considered success given the way the last decade has gone. We knew, and were prepared for time and the accompanying frustration of trying to undo the damage of the previous regime. So for them to still be legit contenders not just for the top spot in the Pacific Division, and not just the Western Conference, but their first Presidents Trophy since they won it back to back in 2010-11 and 2011-12? There wasn't anyone who was saying this that wasn't taking the piss.

As far as making changes, I can't see anything drastic happening, but a better option down the middle for the second line could be worth exploring, as well as one more solid top 3 defenceman. Are they a legit threat to win it all as is? No. So they'd need to upgrade if they're gonna go for it. The question is: How much of the future are they willing to wager to do this? I might be in the minority, but I'm going to be happy with playoff hockey regardless of what happens. Lose in the first round? I'm good, because it's a step forward instead of the constant falling back down the stairs we had gotten used to with the Benning regime.

jimmi - Playoff hockey?! Such a foreign concept. And yet here we are staring deep into that free revenue hockey season played without rules. Will the Nucks make it through the 1st round? I'm with Kent on this. It's all icing on the bonus hockey season. If and it's that Nucking big IF... if the Nucks can keep playing the straight ahead Taco game - play every shift like it's their last of the season... then... who knows.

Westy - First off, I would like to say that Kent is a filthy liar. The moment the Canucks make the playoffs and then when we know who they play in the 1st round, Kent will be telling you how the Canucks can win that series. He will take his heart and hold it out for the Canucks to crush again. "Happy with playoff hockey..." Bullshit.

The question the I have, and Taco has for sure is, "Can this team really buy into a 200 foot system for 60 minutes a night?" There is a big difference in good team when it comes to the playoffs. There top scorers look to make defensive plays and special teams become even more special. The Canucks seem capable to be able to score their way into the playoffs, but it may take another appearance of "Playoff Demko" to get them past the 1st round.

4- Anyone else think Thatcher Demko's kinda not spectacular at the moment? I mean, he's winning games, but he's been giving up some stinkers over the last month. Just a hiccup, or should we be concerned?

Kent- Demko's been great this season, though his numbers have taken a noticeable dip since the start of December. Part of that could be tied to injuries on the back end that saw the defence's play struggle in front of him. But I do worry about his ability to get rest given how intense their schedule has been. And with the way Casey DeSmith's performed in his appearances this season, why not give him a couple more here and there? Yes, you want your number one starter in goal for big games, but DeSmith's earned the chance to get more than the other half of back to backs. A well rested Demko is key to success the rest of the way and beyond. Naturally, after I write this he turns in what was likely his best performance of the season in the win over the Rangers, even though he let in 3 goals. I just want him healthy and rested, and as we saw in the win over the Islanders, the Canucks can lean on DeSmith to help with this. They have the best goal tandem since Luongo/Schneider back in you know when...

jimmi - Demmers has had some meh games in the past few weeks... but if he can win a game in Jersey with a measly .840, it doesn't matter, does it? Agree that he needs his rest and DeSmith could grab a few extra wins while Demmers prepares to be Bubble Demko in that mythical 2nd season. But still... maybe Demmers needs to have his blocker re-calibrated by a goalie whisperer.

Westy - Stats first. So far Demko has the best save %, lowest GAA and highest quality start % of his career.

Demko was struggling before Christmas and the wonky schedule was beneficial for him. The last game was not his best and yet he made some monster saves against the Devils to get the win. I think Taco has stated he always has a number of games he wants Demko to play and the rest of the season lends itself to having DeSmith playing probably every third game.

5- In case you missed it, it appears that Connor Bedard is going to still be out of the lineup when the Chicago Blackhawks make their only visit to Vancouver this season on Jan 22. Should we feel bad for the kid, or is this some kind of punishment for not going full Lindros and refusing to report to the garbage organization he plays for?

Kent- I know that sounds mean, but let's face it: I am the last person who's going to feel any sympathy for the Hawks after the shit they've pulled. And with the catastrophic injuries they've had this season (along with having to jettison Corey Perry early on in the campaign), they're destined for the basement again. And that means they're sure to, like the Edmonton Oilers a decade ago, have top odds to win the draft lottery again, and be given another legit superstar that will lead them to glory down the road. There's no team as undeserving of this than Chicago, and it's because of this that the rest of the hockey world can't even enjoy a little schadenfreude over their current situation. I suppose it's sad for him that he can't play at home in front of friends and family. There was a way out, to go full Lindros and refuse to sign with this vile band of scumbags, but they chose not to take it. All we can hope for now is they lose the lottery. Also, I love that in the first game they played post-injury for Bedard, they beat Calgary in regulation. Brilliant.

jimmi - Feel horrible for Bedard. Not just for his injury, but for signing with the Fawks. That lottery win for the most shamed team in hockey still smacks of old boy slimy manipulation. But, it's the NHL, pretty much invented slimy old boys. Agree with Kent, the little Fawkers losing this year's lotto would be the best thing for hockey. Next to Bedard walking - running - away from that douche-built franchise.

Westy - I refuse to speak about that organization.

6- We're almost at the halfway mark of the season. We'll discuss the Canucks and how they've done in the first 41 later this week, but let's have your hot takes on what we've seen thus far. Who's for real? Which team is fraudulent? Possible award winners?

Kent- I am sure no one will catch Auston Matthews for the Richard trophy, but this year's MVP is likely to be Nathan MacKinnon, though Quinn Hughes deserves some serious consideration. Which teams are for real? In the East, Boston, Carolina and the Rangers are the teams to beat, while Florida and the Leafs are destined to fall flat. In the West, Winnipeg really appear to be the real deal, and as much as it pains me to say this, but in spite of their goaltending woes, the Oilers appear to have things sorted out, but they'll need to stay healthy. Vegas and LA aren't as good as their records suggest, and I'm still not convinced Colorado can go the distance.

jimmi - Awards are for losers. Or the media. Or both. Don't care about individual awards. There's only one team award that counts - the Prez Trophy. And that other free revenue one. The real teams? Winni does seem to be on track - but as we know - being #1 in the league before June is just another statistic. The Oilers are on an astonishing atonement streak. It's fun to watch a one-player team rise back up the standings, only to be swatted away in the early rounds. I don't watch eastern hockey - their nets are smaller and the hits are harder. Maybe they should form their own league. Oh wait... they already have.

Westy - I know this will come as a surprise, but I disagree with Kent when it comes to MVP. It amazes me that he lives in the Eastern Time Zone and and doesn't see the easy choice for MVP....no, not that moustached duffus in the CotU. I am speaking of David Pasternak. Top 3 in scoring with no one else on his team in that list...unlike MacKinnon who has Mikko and Makar, and he is on a team in the top 4 of the league. I won't mention the team as I would have to shower after doing so. That team being near the top is a surprise after Bergeron retired and the 1st round tanking last year. The Rangers look good as a team and it wouldn't surprise me to see them go the final. I look forward to the dismantling of Tampa if they can't get into the playoffs. As for the West...Fucking Vegas has a lot of weapons and if Colorado can stay healthy, watch out. I would love to see Edmonton bomb, but they will probably find 97 ways to get into the playoffs.

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

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

MADISON SQUARE GARDENS, NEW YORK, NY

4:00 PM PST

SPORTSNET

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

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

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

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

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

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

LINEUPS

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

Canucks projected lineup

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

Ilya Mikheyev -- Pius Suter -- Andrei Kuzmenko

Dakota Joshua -- Teddy Blueger -- Conor Garland

Nils Hoglander -- Nils Aman -- Sam Lafferty

Quinn Hughes -- Filip Hronek

Carson Soucy -- Tyler Myers

Nikita Zadorov -- Ian Cole

Thatcher Demko

Casey DeSmith

Scratched: Noah Juulsen, Mark Friedman, Linus Karlsson

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

Rangers projected lineup

Chris Kreider -- Mika Zibanejad -- Blake Wheeler

Artemi Panarin -- Vincent Trocheck -- Alexis Lafreniere

Brennan Othmann -- Nick Bonino -- Jonny Brodzinski

Will Cuylle -- Barclay Goodrow -- Jimmy Vesey

Ryan Lindgren -- Adam Fox

K'Andre Miller -- Jacob Trouba

Erik Gustafsson -- Braden Schneider

Igor Shesterkin

Jonathan Quick 

Scratched: Zac Jones

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

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

GAME DAY CHATTER

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

What a difference a year makes, eh?

GAME DAY BATTLE HYMN

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

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

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

PRUDENTIAL CENTER, NEWARK, NJ

4:00 PM PST

SPORTSNET PACIFIC, SN1

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

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

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

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

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

LINEUPS

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

Canucks projected lineup

Ilya Mikheyev -- Elias Pettersson -- Sam Lafferty

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

Dakota Joshua -- Teddy Blueger -- Conor Garland

Nils Hoglander -- Nils Aman -- Linus Karlsson

Quinn Hughes -- Filip Hronek

Nikita Zadorov -- Tyler Myers

Ian Cole -- Noah Juulsen

Thatcher Demko

Casey DeSmith

Scratched: Mark Friedman, Andrei Kuzmenko

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

Devils projected lineup

Tyler Toffoli -- Jack Hughes -- Jesper Bratt

Erik Haula -- Nico Hischier -- Dawson Mercer

Curtis Lazar -- Michael McLeod -- Alexander Holtz

Brendan Smith -- Chris Tierney -- Nathan Bastian

Luke Hughes -- John Marino

Jonas Siegenthaler -- Simon Nemec

Colin Miller -- Kevin Bahl

Nico Daws

Vitek Vanecek

Scratched: Graeme Clarke

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

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

GAME DAY CHATTER

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

GAME DAY BATTLE HYMN

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

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

Enjoy the game, folks. Go Canucks Go!

COMMENTS

Comment System How-To

New NM, new comment system. Still uses words and stuff. Hover over the icons to see what they do. 

The most vital function is image embedding. Paste the link to the image in the comment box. When the comment is posted, the image appears. Most of  the time. 

NOTE: Remove the non-image name jibberish. If the image link has any stuff after the file extension - usually a ? with directives like: woo.gif?size=480 blah blah - delete up to and including the ? - simples.

GIF it up for Westy! Or still life in rum.
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