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GAME PREVIEW #16- CANUCKS @ DETROIT

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Another Eastern road trip as the Canucks head to the home of underwhelming pizza...

NHL: Vancouver Canucks at Detroit Red Wings Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Time: 4:30 pm PST 7:30pm EST

Place: Little Caesars Arena, Detroit, MI

TV: SN Pacific

Radio: Sportsnet 650

Opposition Blog: Winging It In Motown

When you think of rivalries that the Canucks have, this one usually doesn’t register. But if you can think back to the days of the West Coast Express, as the Canucks were coming out of the Dark Ages (*spits on a picture of Mark Messier*) the team that one would use as the measuring stick was the Detroit Red Wings. Steve Yzerman, Chris Chelios, Slava Fetisov, Sergei Fedorov... That team was something else. And there was that memorable playoff series that had some memorable Brian Burke pressers and that Dan Cloutier goal (*shudders*).

The glory days in Detroit are now but a memory, and heading into this season, many had these two teams penciled in along with Ottawa, Arizona and Buffalo to go skipping hand in hand to the basement for a tank battle over Jack Hughes. Full credit to Detroit for living up to their end of the bargain. We had a chance to speak to Winging It In Motown’s Michael Bremer about the Wings journey in the post-Zetterberg era:

KB: Heading into this season it seemed like the Canucks and Red Wings had a lot in common (retirement of a huge part of the team’s core, low expectations, rebuild mindset). Are what we see from the Wings so far about what you figured, or will they right the ship as the season progresses?

MB: The Red Wings are basically as bad as we expected them to be which doesn’t stop us from still griping about it. The Wings and Nucks have been practically holding hands in their life cycles, which maybe means that last season was The Notebook for our teams. You guys are actually breaking my heart a little with how you’ve been (over?)performing to start the season; the Wings aren’t going to get much hotter than the 3-game win streak you saw last week, so you guys need to come back down to Earth to continue on the same path as us. Otherwise how will we get to witness what will be our teams’ Mr and Mrs. Smith in the 2023 Stanley Cup Final?

KB: The goaltending situation in Detroit is not so good right now. Is there any hope for the future in terms of prospects?

MB: Detroit has two aging goaltenders in Jimmy Howard and Jonathan Bernier, both of whom would look a lot better if half of our blue-liners weren’t literally thin slices of Swiss cheese. In the pipeline, the Wings have Filip Larsson, a 20-year-old Swede playing at the University of Denver, Keith Petruzzelli, a 19-year-old American playing at Quinnipiac University, and Joren Van Pottelbergh, a 21-year-old Swiss-Belgian playing at HC Davos in the Swiss League. All of these guys are several years away and none of them are guarantees, so the situation isn’t the brightest. Detroit may need to trade or sign a proven commodity when the time comes and the playoff window reopens. Maybe we could trade for one of yours? (Hey now, no hard feelings- one of my best friends is from Vancouver!)

KB: Dylan Larkin. For those of us in West who don’t get to see him too often, how good has he been for the Wings this season?

MB: Larkin looks to be taking another step this season. He’s been one of the few bright spots this season, and has consistently shown the ability to toss the team on his bag and drag them along, even if they are kicking and screaming sometimes. In the off-season there were doubts as to whether he could truly be the driver on a top line, but through 14 games this season he has done exactly that. He has strong possession numbers, and he likes playing against other teams’ best players. He’s crafty this year in a way that we haven’t seen in previous seasons, and he’ll use his speed against the Canucks to cause them to lose assignments and create mismatches. He’s also going to try to bring the puck low, get your defensemen turned around, and create openings for the Detroit blue-liners to get involved in the play. He will easily be the biggest threat that the Canucks have to worry about tonight.

KB: Dennis Cholowski is off to a great start. Did you anticipate this or is his early success exceeding expectations?

MB: Oh yeah, man. I totally called it. I knew Cholowski would be this good. Honestly, I was one of the Cholowski optimists, and even I thought, at best, he would be first-call-up from Grand Rapids. Instead, he’s been in Detroit from day one, and he’s been a pleasure to watch. He has a better combination of vision and passing than the rest of Detroit’s defensemen. Sometimes he crashes and burns, but everyone in Detroit forgives him, a policy we don’t extend to the rest of our players. Vancouver’s wingers will want to stay in his shooting lane because he has a an accurate wrister from the point and he is isn’t afraid to use it if the opportunity presents itself.

KB: What do you think the team needs to do to get back to being back in the mix of contenders for the Cup the way the Wings were for so many years?

MB: Detroit needs a lot of the same stuff Vancouver needs. We have some centers in the pipeline, and if they reach their potential then Detroit should be set, but the team is sparse on the wing, especially with Nyquist likely leaving town at the trade deadline (I already have a big frowny face on my calendar for that day.) There is some promise on the blue line, but it would feel a heck of a lot better if we had someone we felt confident in becoming a #1 defender. Basically, the Red Wings need to hit on a lot of the draft picks they’ve already chosen to get back to the glitzy Yzerman and Lidstrom days. And lastly, the Wings need a good rival. The Wings haven’t developed a good rivalry since coming to the East. They tried with Tampa, but the Yzerman factor keeps getting in the way. It’s supposed to be Toronto, but Detroit isn’t good enough to create too much bad blood with anybody right now. A great rival isn’t strictly necessary, but it makes the whole thing a heck of a lot more fun.

Thanks to Michael for taking the time to chat, and make sure to check out their preview of tonight’s game here.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: Obviously from the Canucks viewpoint there’s 2 big stories: First, it’s Brock Boeser back on the shelf as he struggles with that lingering groin injury. It’s a damn shame because he and Elias Pettersson were downright magical Friday night. There is good news though, and it’s that Christopher Tanev is ready to roll for tonight, giving the Canucks beleaguered defence a much-needed boost.

There will be a lot of attention on Our Boy Jake tonight, and not just so you can shotgun that beer you found sitting in the back of the fridge behind the jar of pickles. Virtanen skated with Bo Horvat’s line yesterday, and the last time these teams played in Detroit, Jake scored once and registered a whopping 8 shots on goal. You may want to hit up your neighbourhood beer store to prepare.

Speaking of good news, Thatcher Demko’s inching closer to a return to the Comets lineup.

He likely won’t get into a game for a few days yet, but this is great news as he makes his recovery from that concussion suffered in the preseason.

Jimmy Howard will get the nod for the Wings tonight, and Jacob Markstrom will again start for the Canucks. Anders Nilsson is on the trip, but no word yet when he will return. One would think either he or Richard Bachman will get a start on this trip, most likely one of the games in New York when they play the Rangers and Islanders on back to back nights.

Via the preview from The Province, here’s your lineups for tonight:

CANUCKS

Forwards

Tim Schaller — Bo Horvat— Jake Virtanen

Brendan Leipsic — Elias Pettersson — Nikolay Goldobin

Antoine Roussel — Markus Granlund — Loui Eriksson

Darren Archibald — Adam Gaudette — Tyler Motte

Defence

Ben Hutton — Erik Gudbranson

Michael Del Zotto — Troy Stecher

Derrick Pouliot — Chris Tanev

Goal

Jacob Markstrom — Richard Bachman

RED WINGS

Forwards

Darren Helm — Dylan Larkin — Anthony Mantha

Gustav Nyquist — Jacob De La Rose — Michael Rasumussen

Justin Abdelkader — Luke Glendening — Tyler Bertuzzi

Luke Witkowski — Wade Megan — Martin Frik

Defence

Dennis Cholowski — Mike Green

Dan Dekeyser — Trevor Daley

Niklas Kronwall — Nick Jensen

Goal

Jimmy Howard — Jonathan Bernier

The Wings will see Frans Nielsen return later in the week but won’t be ready for tonight’s contest.

Some other Canucks news to get you set for tonight: Cody Hodgson was supposed to be a sure thing. What we didn’t know was that there was a medical issue that devastated what should have been a promising career, and now he’s releasing a documentary to talk about it...

The future looks bright... This team is motivated to prove everyone wrong (and that includes us). Let’s hope they do... They also don’t have time to worry about the ceaseless injury parade, with a ‘Next Man Up’ mentality... The Patcast looks back at that wild Friday night win... Seattle’s going to be coming to the NHL soon, and have hired former Canucks exec Victor Di Bonis as their COO... While Power Rankings are somewhat silly, the Canucks being relevant so far this season make it a little more interesting... Make sure you pour one out for Chicago today as word broke this morning that the Blackhawks have fired coach Joel Quenneville.

It’s kinda crazy, as the Hawks are only 2 points back of a Wild Card slot at the moment, and are replacing one of the best coaches in their history and a certain hall of famer with a 33 year old with just over a year of AHL experience. This seems ill-advised at best, and could turn out to be comically disastrous for the Hawks. It’s not as funny as LA hiring Willie Desjardins a couple days before Q became available, though. That shit’s as funny as Jonathan Quick’s contract... Elias Pettersson was 2nd star of the week (he would have been first but he’s not boring)... If I were the Canucks coaching staff, I would be showing Guddy this clip of Jett Woo last night in Kamloops.

GAME DAY BATTLE HYMN

Detroit’s rich musical history hasn’t always been rife with metal, but The Black Dahlia Murder are one of the better acts to come out of the area. Other Michigan metal acts worth checking out are Halloween, Flint based grindcore pioneers Repulsion, and Acid Witch. Off their debut album ‘Unhallowed’, here’s ‘Contagion’.