Vancouver Canucks (10-10-2) vs Winnipeg Jets (11-5-2)
Where: Rogers Arena, Vancouver, BC
When: 7:00 pm PST
Where to Watch: Sportsnet Pacific, TSN 3
SB Nation Opposition Blog: Arctic Ice Hockey
What you need to know: Talk about teams trending in opposite directions. The Jets come into this one having won 6 of their last 10. The Canucks meanwhile have lost 6 of their last 7 including 4 straight in regulation. If there’s any reason for hope heading into this game against one of the NHL’s elite teams, it’s that their road record is a meh 3-3-0 so far this season. Another thing that’s going to help, and god help me I am just as surprised to be typing this as you will be to read this: the addition of Sam Gagner to the lineup.
When the Canucks shocked everyone by loaning Gagner to the Toronto Marlies, some thought it signified the end of his time with the team, that maybe they’d try to work out a deal to get the former Oilers 1st rounder somewhere that he could get decent ice time as it looked as though he didn’t fit with what the Canucks are trying to do this season. Fast forward halfway through November, the Canucks once again decimated by injuries to key players and we have Bo Horvat, who has been transcendent this season shouldering a heavy defensive load while still producing. And producing in spite of Antoine Roussel (who has been a pleasant surprise this season) and Tim Schaller (who by all accounts is a super nice dude who is well liked by his team mates). One of these guys is actually capable of helping Horvat. One, really isn’t. And that is why Gagner, who has put up a point a game in the AHL, is back.
Going to Toronto was a very personal thing for Gagner. He has a young family, and getting to spend more time with them was obviously a huge priority, and the Canucks did the right thing loaning him to the Marlies as opposed to sending him to Utica. Make no mistake though, Sam Gagner believes he can still be an effective player in the NHL. Maybe this is going to work like a wakeup call for him, and we see a more consistent version of the player he’s proven he can be.
One thing he could have an immediate impact on is the power play. Since losing Brock Boeser, Alex Edler and Sven Baertschi, the PP’s been a tire fire (save for that brilliant Elias Pettersson goal Saturday night). Gagner was brought in to be a PP specialist, a role he excelled in during his stint in Columbus. It may not have translated last season, but like I said, with this renewed opportunity, maybe it clicks this time?
Although because of injuries it’s not likely to happen, I would love to see DJMDZ’s ass stapled to the press box tonight (hell, leave him there as you depart for California, honestly). His ridiculous penalty late in the 3rd period that led to the game winner is a microcosm of the issue with Del Zotto. Anything good he accomplishes (in this case, his first goal of the season, which was pretty nice) is wiped out by bad plays and frustrating mental mistakes. Even with Alex Edler getting closer to returning to practicing with the team, you have to wonder how much longer Olli Juolevi can continue his stellar rookie season in Utica before the team calls him to get a game or two in? It may not be Juolevi time just yet, but it’s coming, and this is another reason we can have hope for the future.
As far as the Jets go, the Canucks could be in for a long night. While they’re struggling at 5v5 play, the Winnipeg PP is absolutely lethal, and with the carefree manner that the Canucks take penalties (and the subsequent goals that follow on a penalty kill that desperately misses Brandon Sutter’s presence (yes, it’s shocking that I am typing this, too)), it has all the makings of a 4 for 6 kinda night.
One thing’s for sure, the Jets aren’t sleeping on Elias Pettersson and Bo Horvat, and you can bet they’re going to be trying to lay the body on OLASEP. Our pals over at Arctic Ice Hockey have their preview up if you wish to peruse it. The Jets are coming off a shootout loss to the Sabres (deja-vu...), and will be looking to get this swing out West off to a good start tonight.
Here’s the projected lineups via The Province (note that they don’t have Gagner here, or who is coming out to slot him in)
Tim Schaller—Bo Horvat—Markus Granlund
Nikolay Goldobin—Elias Pettersson—Loui Eriksson
Antoine Roussel—Adam Gaudette—Jake Virtanen
Brendan Leipsic—Brendan Gaunce—Tyler Motte
Ben Hutton—Erik Gudbranson
Derrick Pouliot—Chris Tanev
Michael Del Zotto—Troy Stecher
Jacob Markstrom—Richard Bachman
Nikolaj Ehlers—Mark Scheifele—Blake Wheeler
Kyle Connor—Bryan Little—Patrik Laine
Andrew Copp—Adam Lowry—Brandon Tanev
Nic Petan—Jack Roslovic—Mathieu Perreault
Josh Morrissey—Jacob Trouba
Ben Chiarot—Dustin Byfuglien
Joe Morrow—Tyler Myers
Connor Hellebuyck—Laurent Brossoit
Sven Baertschi (concussion)
Jay Beagle (wrist)
Brock Boeser (adductor)
Alex Edler (knee)
Brandon Sutter (shoulder)
Anders Nilsson (hand)
Dmitry Kulikov (upper body)
Canucks: 18.7% (19th)
Jets: 33.3% (1st)
Canucks: 77.8% (20th)
Jets: 81.3% (12th)
GAME DAY BATTLE HYMN
Winnipeg doesn’t get enough credit for being a city one thinks of when they think of metal, but they’ve produced some pretty decent acts over the years, one of the best being KEN Mode. A furious mix of metal, hardcore and noise that leaves you feeling a tad bruised and battered when the smoke clears. Here’s a track off their latest album “Loved”, available on Season Of Mist Records.