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Questions abound as Jackets come to town

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3:40 PM

A little Alain Vigneault respect at The Province today:

Could it be the most under-reported aspect of this Canucks season has been the coaching job by Alain Vigneault?

It's just a thought and, lord knows, if the Canucks lose three in a row, the dump-the-coach movement will be revived faster than you can say Kyle Wellwood. But there's also a sense here that Vigneault's work hasn't been fully appreciated and he's played a significant role in whatever success the team has enjoyed.

Damned rights. Vigneault has taken a lot of heat this season but is silencing his critics...and also maybe listening to them, as he has juggled the top 2 lines a lot less in recent weeks.

8:40 AM ET Update: A few more notes for tonight's game:

1. The BJ's (*snicker*) can sweep the season series with Vancouver tonight which would mark the first time Vancouver doesn't get at least two points out of their season series with Columbus since they entered the league.

2. Columbus is dead last on the PP.

3. The team from Ohio is 11-4-2 this season against the Northwest Division.

4. As Sean talks about below, this game is simply huge. Both squads are two of the hottest teams in the conference right now and, still, it's possible that neither makes the playoffs. If tonight doesn't have a playoff feel to it, someone isn't paying attention.

So, as such, let's show current BJ'er (*snicker*) R.J. Umberger, the former first round Vancouver pick who got into a financial pissing contest with old GM Burke and never played a damn game for us - in his most famous and noteworthy play to date:

Bieksa? Mitchell? Ohlund? O'Brien? Just making sure you're paying attention. Or better yet, maybe Kesler himself just to give it a good ol' Ohio feel to it:

**********

Peca_coke_medium

I've been badgering the Canucks for not playing up to their potential over the past few games, and I'm not alone in my concern. Some might say that the flu bug that has plagued the team over the past week and a bit is part of the problem. I hope it is, because that means that the team will only play better soon. I have to give them props for winning their last 8 of 10 games regardless. But a narrow 2-1 victory over the lowly Lightning isn't exuding much confidence in me, flu bug or not.

"We played down to their level," Ryan Kesler said after that game. Well, they will have to avoid doing that against a hungry Columbus team that is believing in each other 100% right now.

"I think we just know we have a chance," says captain Rick Nash. "Last year, we had tons of injuries, there were rumors of trades, guys coming in, guys going out. This year, it just feels like we have a strong team, a strong bond.

"It's a good mix."

The Canucks have faced great goaltending in Vesa Toskala, Jaroslav Halak and Kari Rammo over the past 3 games. Tonight they will face an even better goalie in rookie of the year candidate Steve Mason, whose stats are even better than Roberto Luongo's.

It doesn't hurt that Mason is playing in front of a stingy Jackets team. They can win games 5-3 or 1-0, but I'm not undermining his abilties.

I think the most important thing for the Canucks is to score the first goal to open up Columbus' "trap" early on. If Columbus scores first I don't like our chances so much.

How important is this game?

Westernconference_mar12009_medium

A win by Vancouver puts them 6 points up on 9th spot, and that is some decent breathing room, plus 4 points up on Columbus. This game is huge. Should resemble a playoff-type game.

Rick Rypien and Ossi Vaananen practiced with the Canucks on Saturday, but neither player will see a game yet until they get proper practicing time with the team.

So now the questions:

-which Canucks team shows up tonight?

-is Mats Sundin going to break out of his goal-scoring slump?

-which Canuck (erhmm Wellwood) may be playing in his last game in a Canucks jersey? The Canucks do play on Tuesday night against the Wild-the eve of the trade deadline, however, trades happen several hours before the deadline passes.

-is Luongo back to form? He looked like it against the Lightning. He needs to outplay rookie Mason. Keep growing that hair longer, Louie. It gives you power.

-What the hell is up with that Peca coke Photoshop? Well it originated from Peca saying that the Blue Jackets were going to be (or should be a 100-point team this year. I scoffed. Now I may eat some humble pie.

GAME TIME: 7:00 PST 5:00 PST

TV: Sportsnet Pacific

Enemy Blog: The CBJ blogs that I was accustomed to reading are defunct. Got a Jackets blog? Send in the link in the comments section
BETHANY'S HOCKEY RANTS!