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GAME DAY PREVIEW- Game 39- Canucks vs Winnipeg

Twas the game before Christmas...

NHL: Winnipeg Jets at Vancouver Canucks Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Vancouver Canucks (17-17-4) vs Winnipeg Jets (23-10-2)

Where: Rogers Arena, Vancouver, BC

When: 7:00 pm PST

Where to Watch: Sportsnet Pacific

SB Nation Opposition Blog: Arctic Ice Hockey

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: The Canucks are back to .500 hockey after the win over St Louis Thursday night, and have been playing somewhat decent hockey in December after snapping that losing streak, going 6-3-1 this month. But much like Tuesday when they took on the best team in the NHL when Tampa visited, they face a huge challenge tonight as the West’s #1 seed, the Winnipeg Jets are in town for a visit.

The Jets made some noise in the playoffs last year, and look poised to actually take a run at being the first Canadian team to bring home the Cup since Montreal’s win in 1993. (*Pauses for a moment to imagine the outrage and the ratings of a Winnipeg/Toronto Cup Final*) They have a lot of pieces, and likely just need a little bit of depth and to stay healthy and they could be a serious contender this spring.

The Canucks record this month has a lot to do with the play of Jacob Markstrom. To say he’s been dialed in for December is an understatement. If he maybe lets in even one of St Louis’ 15 first period shots Thursday night, there’s a good chance that game ends differently than the 5-1 win. He’s giving this young Canucks team time to sort out and adjust against their opponents, and rewarding their now clear #1 netkeeper with goal support. It’s a big reason why they’re one point back of the Oilers for the last Wild Card spot in the West (though that’s also a symptom of how bad the West has been this season). It still doesn’t look like the Canucks have any business being in the playoff mix a lot of the time, but they continue to play inspired, entertaining hockey and that’s bringing fans back to Rogers Arena.

Here’s your morning reading to get you ready for tonight: The Province’s Patrick Johnston on the Canucks pondering defensive options for the future after Olli Juolevi’s season-ending surgery... Canucks G prospect Michael DiPietro’s struggles against the Swiss the other night might cost him the starting position at the World Juniors next week... The Jets are dangerous because no matter the situation they find themselves in, they’re able to get the W... The Utica Comets continue to play well, last night earning a 2-1 win over the Springfield Thunderbirds that featured this potential Goal of the Year from Darren Archibald...

We’ll post the lineups when we have them for you, but as far as the Canucks go, there shouldn’t really be any changes from Thursday night.

GAME DAY BATTLE HYMN: Merry Christmas, ya filthy animals...