After that wonderful New Years Eve gift from the Canucks, they look to continue both their winning ways and their dominance over their divisional foes with the first of a back to back in Denver tonight against the Colorado Avalanche. There's a lot of discussion going on right now about what to do when Mason Raymond is ready to go (and is he ready to go?) as well as how to fix the cap issues to allow Sami Salo back into the lineup. Problems? Sure, but isn't it nice that these are the kinds of problems we have? My only hope is that they don't become a distraction in what is without a doubt the most important month on the Canucks' schedule. 14 games in 25 days, including 3 back to backs in the first 12. We're gonna see not only a lot of Cory Schneider in this time, but also what this team is really made of. More after the jump...
How important is this game? Well, a win for the Canucks will give them an 8 point cushion over the Avs, which when you consider how much of a log jam the West has been all year is an impressive feat in and of itself. Oh yeah, and if the Flyers should beat Detroit, we will be in 1st place in the league thanks to less games played than the Red Wings or Pittsburgh Penguins. So there's that. Sportsnet's Dan Murphy announced on Twitter moments ago that Mason Raymond will be in the lineup tonight and starting interestingly enough on the 4th line, meaning Aaron Volpatti will be in the press box tonight. Safe to say that Raymond will not spend the whole night on that line, however.
After sending Ryan Parent to the Moose, the Canucks still need to clear about $1.5 Million in cap space to get Sami Salo back into the lineup. There have been many suggestions about how to do this, from trading a defenseman like Kevin Bieksa or Christian Ehrhoff to a forward like Raymond or Mikael Samuelsson. My opinion is that the smartest move is to get draft picks for Ehrhoff who is a free agent in the summer. We likely wouldn't be able to fit him in next year's cap with the kind of money he will be looking for and with the Canucks still having a number of mobile puck-moving defensemen, this makes more sense than moving Bieksa, who seems to have really found his game again this season.
He may get injured (a lot...), but you cannot overlook just how important a healthy Sami Salo could be to this team, especially heading into the playoffs. He will make one of the best power play's in the league even better, has that big booming shot from the point, and is one more experienced player that will allow Coach Alain Vigneault to spread out the defensive minutes, a luxury not many teams have.
The Avalanche are hanging in their in spite of their goaltending letting them down a bit lately and a season riddled with injuries. They're very run and gun, relying on their ability to score a lot of goals to compensate for their goaltending issues. While the Canucks have won 13 of their last 16, the Avs have won just once in their last 5, and are looking to stop the bleeding if they want to keep pace as well as keep some distance between the Calgary Flames and Minnesota Wild, both just 6 points back.
Ham, Swiss and Broccoli Quiche
It may have been delayed, but they managed to pull off the Winter Classic, rain and all. And while Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin were pretty much non-factors in the game, the ratings were up for this one, which is good news no matter how you slice it. I would imagine the HBO series '24/7' had a lot to do with this... Still not sure what to make of that headshot on Crosby last night. It looked accidental, but it certainly met all the criteria for a penalty call. I was surprised Crosby made it back into the game, yet that gaffe at the end where the Pens went 15 seconds without getting a 6th skater on the ice to replace goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was a pretty good indication someone was having trouble focusing. I wouldn't be surprised to see Crosby sit the next game. A little shocking that no one went after David Steckel for the hit, and your guess is as good as mine as to whether the NHL's
clown prince of comedy Head of Discipline Colin Campbell will give the NHL Wheel of Justice a spin on this one... The Maple Leafs kicked the crap out of the Ottawa Senators last night, dominating them in every aspect of the game that was downright embarrassing for the Sens. Chris Neil looked every bit the coward not taking on Colton Orr early in the game when a good showing might have given his team a spark, but then got his ass handed to him by Orr later in the game when it was out of reach... The Devils lost again, in another game where Martin Brodeur got pulled. This team is so bad it's scary to see how hard they've fallen in such a short time, and Brodeur's play is the most glaring example. I said last year that you could see him starting to disintegrate, and was chastised by many for suggesting it. This didn't happen overnight, even with his decent numbers last year he was letting in uncharacteristically bad goals, and this year he looks nothing like the hall of famer he once was... Team Canada takes on Switzerland later today, and thankfully coach Dave Cameron has decided to sit goalie Olivier Roy in place of Marc Visintin. The Canadians also get Zack Kassian back after his suspension, which will no doubt give them a boost as they head towards an inevitable showdown in the semi's against the favored Americans.
WAACH 'Cast's Band Of The Day- GAMA BOMB
Northern Ireland is probably one of the last places you'd expect to find a metal band, but Belfast's Gama Bomb have been making quite a name for themselves in the thrash metal revival of the last couple of years. Mixing great riffs with a love of horror movies and a very old-school sense of humour and mentality, they've quickly become a favorite of mine. They even made their latest album 'Tales From The Grave In Space' free for download through their label Earache Records as a way of helping spread the word about their music. They still sold a respectable number of copies of the album, giving anti-piracy supporters something to think about...