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Thursday Morning Coffee- One Step Closer...

The Canucks have a big challenge ahead of them tonight as they host the San Jose Sharks at GM Place. With the Sharks showing some signs of weakness lately, most recently an 8-2 embarrassment at the hands of the Dallas Stars, is the table set for the Canucks to finally shake this particular monkey off their backs?

The Canucks will have a different look tonight, as Micheal Grabner will be on the 2nd line with Ryan Kesler and Mason Raymond. The shoulder injury suffered by Mikael Samuelsson Tuesday against the Islanders is expected to keep him out of the lineup for up to 3 weeks, thus the opportunity for Grabner to make a case for himself to stay not just the rest of the season, but next year as well.

After a game where fans and press alike seemed to be gathering the torches and pitchforks for Andrew Alberts, we still haven't heard if Shane O'Brien will draw back into the lineup after being a healthy scratch the last few. With a team that can skate as well as the Sharks, the Canucks would probably want to see someone with the skating ability of O'Brien in the lineup as opposed to the now much-maligned Alberts. And I can't believe I am saying that about O'Brien. But the debate about our defense, raging all season long is too damn complicated for someone who just got out of bed, so we will leave it for another time.

The Canucks will not just need to be better defensively, but most importantly they'll need the Roberto Luongo that played this weekend to show up, and not the one that stunk up the joint Tuesday night. Getting into a run and gun game with San Jose might be unavoidable, but they're going to have to do more than just shut down San Jose's top line, which they did when the Sharks were here in November, but they also need to shut down the Fraser Maclaren's, Manny Malhotra's and Jamie McGinn's. Those 3, along with Dan Boyle scored to lead the Sharks to a 4-2 win in that game.

Big team effort from the best players, defense by committee, and Roberto Luongo being not just the best goalie, but the best player on the ice is the key. The Canucks need to lock up the division title, and they can put a little distance once again between themselves and the Colorado Avalanche. They got the help they needed from the Calgary Flames last night *shudders* so they need to take advantage of that break.

How can you eat after that?

Another game, another brutal hit in the NHL. Anyone else starting to get a little numb to all this? This one however was shocking, not just for the ferocity of the hit, but the stunning comments made by Ducks colour commentator Brian Hayward, and after the game by Ducks coach Randy Carlyle.

First, let's look at the hit from the Chicago viewpoint:

Now, here's the Ducks take:

So you have a guy who charged at a player who didn't have the puck, a few feet away from the boards. He leaves his feet and brings his forearm to the player's face. And after the game, Coach Randy Carlyle says Wisniewski should have been the first star of the game, and didn't bring his arms up on the play.

But more mind-boggling than the embarrassing comments by Hayward and Carlyle, was the officiating. How in the world does a veteran official like Paul Devorski only call a 2 minute charging penalty? This is such a clear cut case of intent to injure. The NHL has to come down hard and stop the nonsense of saying things like "technically, according to the rule book it was a legal hit" or something like that. Steve Downie got a 20 game suspension for a hit on Ottawa's Dean McAmmond for launching himself at McAmmond's head. I think that's a suitable punishment.

Oh yeah, Matt Cooke and the Pittsburgh Penguins are in Boston to take on the Bruins for the first time since Cooke's hit on Marc Savard. The lunatics are running the asylum...