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GAME DAY PREVIEW- Game 35- Canucks vs Philadelphia

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Back from a pretty successful road swing, the Canucks play Gritty’s Gang in the first of a back to back...

NHL: Philadelphia Flyers at Vancouver Canucks Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

Vancouver Canucks (14-16-4) vs Philadelphia Flyers (12-14-4)

Where: Rogers Arena, Vancouver, BC

When: 7:00 pm PST

Where to Watch: Sportsnet, CBC

SB Nation Opposition Blog: Broad Street Hockey

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: The Canucks are home for Christmas. They’ll play their next 5 games at Rogers Arena, right up to the Christmas break, but after this road trip they probably won’t mind heading back on the road. Though they didn’t exactly impress when looking at the games as a whole, they managed 5 of a possible 6 points after snapping that horrendous losing streak. And while the winning streak is over, they’re facing a team in turmoil tonight in the Flyers. With a new GM, a lame duck coach and struggles that mirror some of the Canucks’ issues, this could end up being a pretty important game for both teams.

I had a chance to talk with Kelly Hinkle of Broad Street Hockey, who was kind enough to have me on BSH Radio as well as answer our questions:

1. The Flyers currently find themselves 9 points back of a wild card spot. Is this a lost season, or can they battle their way back into this?

It’s so hard to say. They pulled themselves out of a similar hole last season on the back of an MVP-caliber performance from Claude Giroux and career years from a couple of other guys, but this year it’s hard to see that happening. They just seem so...lackluster. I do know that if they don’t turn it around pretty immediately than there is really no way. Last season we looked at the Dec. 23rd game (it was a Festivus miracle!!) as the start of the turnaround, so they’re quickly running out of runway here.

2. They pulled the trigger on Ron Hextall earlier in the season, but should they have let Dave Hakstol go first? What is it gonna take for him to get fired?

I really can’t understand how he still has a job. It really boggles the mind. The fact that so many guys have been let go recently and both Dave Hakstol and Ian Lapperiere are still standing is REMARKABLE. In a bad way. We assumed that perhaps they didn’t fire both Ron and Dave together because they didn’t want to cause too much chaos at once, and also because we assumed that whoever became the new GM would replace him immediately with his own guy. Chuck Fletcher indicated he wanted to give Hakstol a chance to show him what he’s got but good god, haven’t we seen enough? The guy is just out of his depth. If the Flyers continue to look as bad as they have this season I really hope Chuck will pull the trigger, but I’m assuming that would wait until after the holidays at this point.

3. There was a pretty important addition to the Flyers in the offseason, how much has he meant to the team this year? No, I’m not talking about JVR. It’s all about Gritty, right?

I’m not kidding when I tell you that Gritty is the only source of joy that any Flyers fan has right now. Without him we’d all be lost.

4. What do you see as the biggest issues facing the Flyers right now?

Well apart from the coaching, which is in my opinion the biggest overall issue, the two most glaring problems are the goaltending and the defense. I’m a big Brian Elliott defender; I think that when he plays, and is healthy, he gives the Flyers a chance to win just about every game they play. And that’s enough for me because there aren’t that many top-tier goalies in this league, so just maintaining average with a good team in front of you should be enough. The problem is, Elliott can’t seem to stay healthy anymore. He’s had a couple of core/groin injuries over the last season and it seems to be becoming a chronic problem. On top of that, his backup, Michal Neuvirth, is even worse. He’s NEVER healthy. And the problem there is that Ron Hextall knew that just as well as we all did and he still extended him and kept these two as the Flyers starting tandem for the year. And it has just devolved into an absolute mess that needs to be fixed ASAP.

The defense is made up of the same guys as last year, for the most part, and on paper shouldn’t be this bad. But both Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere are struggling mightily this season, for reasons no one can seem to figure out, and when your top two guys are struggling the whole thing falls apart fast. It would also help A LOT if Dave Hakstol stopped giving Andrew Mac top 2 minutes.

5. On the podcast we discussed Elias Pettersson and Nolan Patrick. What’s your read on his development, especially given that it was a toss up between Patrick and Nico Hischier being the best player available in the draft? Is he going to live up to those expectations?

I think that Nolan will be fine. I think that his development is a bit stunted because, in reality, he wasn’t fully healed from his injuries and surgeries until about halfway through last season. Obviously when you luck into the second overall pick you want that kid to come in and be amazing immediately, but sometimes you need a little patience. That is a hard thing for Flyers fans. I think Patrick is going to be great through. We’re just going through a rough patch.

6. Tell us about a player on the Flyers we might want to keep an eye on tonight.

For outside fans I’m going to go with Travis Sanheim. If you look at a box score and see that our idiot coach generally gives him like 12 minutes a night, you might think he’s nothing to write home about. But the kid is amazing, and makes a difference nearly every time he hits the ice. Look for him to make some great breakout passes and possibly even score a goal.

Thanks so much to Kelly and the gang at BSH, and we’ll get the link for their ‘cast up as soon as it’s available.

The Flyers were in Edmonton last night, and it did not go well. Connor McDavid had 2 goals and an assist in a 4-1 Oilers victory. This will be the Flyers’ 3rd game in 4 nights, so catching a tired team might work in the Canucks’ favour. Here’s some pregame stuff to get you up to speed... JPat on the go-to guys being just that... Pierre Le Brun gives his thoughts on the Canucks Youth Movement... JD Burke on Zack MacEwan’s breakout season in Utica.. The Comets won their 4th straight last night, with a 3 goal 3rd period for a 5-2 win over Binghamton. Thatcher Demko with another big game, but they lost Jonathan Dahlen to injury. Ben Birnell of the Utica Observer-Dispatch with the complete post-game wrap... And in case you missed it yesterday, Friend of the Blog Ron MacLean mentioned us on his appearance on Sportsnet650. Thanks, Ron!

Since it’s early (like, real early) check the comments for updates on lineups and other game day news, as our crack staff will be updating throughout the day!

GAME DAY BATTLE HYMN: They’re one of the best stories in metal this past year. Alien Weaponry are a band from New Zealand, who incorporate their Maori heritage into some pretty impressive thrash metal. Check out this video for Kai Tangata off their album “Tū”