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GAME DAY PREVIEW- GAME 46: Canucks vs Florida

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Pettersson is a no go as Roberto Luongo returns for the possibly the last time to Vancouver.

NHL: Florida Panthers at Vancouver Canucks Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Vancouver Canucks (20-21-5) vs Florida Panthers (17-18-8)

Where: Rogers Arena, Vancouver, BC

When: 4:00 pm PST

Where to Watch: Sportsnet

SB Nation Opposition Blog: Litter Box Cats

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: First we were robbed of seeing Elias Pettersson lighting up the Leafs on HNIC, now we don’t get to see him get revenge on the Mike Matheson and the Florida Panthers and it sucks. Sure, there’s a great story here with Roberto Luongo playing for what could very well be the last time in Vancouver. But if you’re a Canucks fan, that was always going to be the side story. Whether he’s in the lineup or not, everything this team does is about Elias Pettersson right now, and for the foreseeable future.

The Canucks have won just 3 of the 8 games EP has missed this season, and scored a whopping 14 goals in those games. If they want to have any chance of hanging onto their slim playoff hopes, they need him back. He has been skating with the team again, and I’d say it’s pretty much 100% we see him Wednesday as the Edmonton Oilers roll in to Rogers Arena, but for tonight they’ll have to try and get not just the scoring but the power play going without him.

So instead of the future of the Canucks going head to head against the greatest goalie to ever don a Canucks uniform, we are stuck with a different ‘Clash of the Titans’: Mike Matheson vs Erik Gudbranson in a battle to see who truly is the worst defender in the NHL. I know that +/- is for the most part a useless stat, though I would say it’s likely far more telling for defencemen than forwards. These two burlap sacks of uselessness are leading the NHL in the minus department, Matheson sitting one point ahead of Guddy for the lead. It’s fair to assume that with no Dekey Pete and the uh, ‘hot’ streak Guddy is on right now, the lead should change hands this afternoon.

And that brings us to Matheson and whether or not the Canucks need to address him re: the ridiculous incident back in October. I would imagine one of Antoine Roussel or Gudbranson challenges him to a fight, which I imagine will make some folks happy. Personally, I would rather see some kind of combination of seeing someone get a good, clean hit on Matheson and a night of Pettersson breaking the Panthers’ dman’s ankles all night long. One can’t happen, the other probably won’t. So look for a stupid staged fight to happen early and hopefully that will be the end of it. Oh, and I imagine there’ll be some asinine Denis Potvin commentary to go along with it.

Luongo’s return is bittersweet. 2011 is a wound that time has yet to heal, and one of the reasons is the way some in this fan base treated him, and blame him for the loss. It’s absolutely insane to look at that series, one where the Canucks scored 8 goals in 7 games and say “yeah, if only the Canucks got some goaltending”. And another thing that needs to be said: if you’re blaming Luongo for a pending cap nightmare that the Canucks are facing, you don’t understand the situation at all. You all may remember that this is the scenario:

So... tell me your first reaction. It’s something along the lines of “OMG WHAT THE HELL WAS GILLIS THINKING?!?!?!”, right? Here’s the thing. This isn’t Gillis’ fault, for the most part. Yeah, the term was ridiculous, even as durable as he’s proven to be. The cap recapture wasn’t part of the contract, but a penalty imposed RETROACTIVELY by the NHL as punishment for trying to circumvent the cap system. And before you say it, you should know that every team tries to do things to circumvent the cap. That’s why players like Chris Pronger, Dave Bolland and Marian Hossa are still getting paid. It was a perfect storm and the NHL used Gillis and the Canucks to make an example. Maybe he retires at the end of this season. He hasn’t said as much, but the injuries seem to be happening more frequently. And it’s definitely the worst case scenario for the Panthers if he doesn’t play next season. Unless Lu can hang on til 2021, the Canucks’ ability to resign players is going to be hampered in a pretty significant way.

Here’s what we should see for lineups today via TSN:

POSSIBLE CANUCKS LINE-UP

Baertschi-Horvat-Boeser

Roussel-Sutter-Virtanen

Goldobin-Granlund-Leivo

Eriksson-Beagle-Motte

Edler-Tanev

Hutton-Stecher

Pouliot-Gudbranson

Demko

POSSIBLE PANTHERS LINE-UP

Huberdeau-Barkov-Dadonov

Hoffman-Borgstrom-Malgin

Vatrano-Lammikko-Brouwer

Hawryluk-Sceviour-Haley

Matheson-Ekblad

Yandle-Pysyk

Kiselevich-Weegar

Luongo

First, can we get a “HELL YEAH!” for a Thatcher Demko start at home? If there was something to energize the crowd without EP in the lineup, this is it, and what better way to begin the Demko era than against Roberto Luongo. Also, How in the hell is Keith Yandle even eligible to play in this game after what happened in Calgary the other night?

Now I know what you’re thinking. He missed Monahan with the slash. No harm, no foul. The problem is it’s as much luck as anything else that he didn’t connect with Monahan, and the play was INSANELY reckless, not to mention unsportsmanlike. Yandle has a history with slashes, too. Just ask this dude...

The good news for today? Erik Gudbranson is not paired with Ben Hutton. The bad news? He’s going to be the third pairing with Derrick Pouliot. I am hoping that this is some type of progressive discipline plan for poor play that escalates to a trip to the press box, since trying to showcase him for a trade is not a thing.

GAME DAY BATTLE HYMN

I missed the GDBH last time around (battling the flu right now and it’s kicking my ass in a serious way) so to make it up I am gonna throw 3 songs at you today. First up is the title track from the upcoming release from MISERY INDEX. It’s out March 8th on Season Of Mist Records.

A little German HC for you from the Spermbirds ‘My God Rides A Skateboard’

And finally some old school Vancouver-area metal for you. Witches Hammer were one of the better bands from the 80’s, playing a ferocious thrash style that was as at home with hardcore bands as it was metal acts. They’ve recently had their recordings re-released on Nuclear War Now and the Victoria-based label Supreme Echo (best little record shop in Vic, go see them on Government and Bay).