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THE ROUNDUP- Jan 8/19: Just Who Are The Canucks, Anyway?

A slow month that allows their rivals to make up games in hand will pull the curtain back and reveal some truths...

NHL: Vancouver Canucks at Toronto Maple Leafs Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

CANUCKS NEWS: The Canucks are back home after a road trip that was forgettable for a number of reasons. The knee injury to Elias Pettersson was the “highlight” of a 6 game swing that had some pretty ugly numbers. They went in as one of the hottest teams in the NHL and came out looking more like the team we thought we’d see when this season started, complete with some flashbacks to last season when it came to goal scoring. They were shutout in 3 of the last 4 games, and 4 of the last 7 going back to the game against Winnipeg before the road trip started. We shouldn’t be sounding alarm bells though, because that implies that the Canucks weren’t supposed to be as awful as they look right now.

If there’s a bright spot in all this, it’s that you can’t hang any of these losses on Jacob Markstrom. He’s continued to play well, and just isn’t getting the goal support. And man, has the absence of Pettersson highlighted just how cold Canucks shooters have gone. Bo Horvat and Jake Virtanen have played well but have nothing to show for it. Go down the lineup and you see guys that just aren’t getting it done right now, and when the other Western Conference teams start cashing in those games in hand, you’ll see a more accurate portrayal of where this team is in terms of it’s chances of making the playoffs. Yes, they’re one point out, but that spot is held by a team with 4 games in hand on the Canucks. That’s not an ideal situation. The Canucks could see everyone pass them save for the Los Angeles Kings, who have Willie D at the helm of their tank and he’s got the pedal pressed to the floor...

So with no game action til Thursday we’re in an unusual situation for this season. It’s pretty much the longest stretch the Canucks have gone without a game so far, and it leaves us to focus on two things: Elias Pettersson injury updates and tracking prospects. At the top of pile of the latter is comments from Petrus Palmu this morning on SN650 that don’t paint a particularly flattering light of things in Utica. Take it with a grain of salt, but this is a clearly frustrated player.

Another topic right now is what are the Canucks going to do about Alex Edler? While every indication is that he has no interest whatsoever in waiving his NTC, things can change as the deadline nears. If the Canucks are in a situation where the playoffs are out of reach, they could ask him to waive with the intent to re-sign him in the offseason. He’s playing some really solid hockey right now, and along with Chris Tanev are keeping the Canucks from getting completely blown out. Let’s say the Canucks do manage to move him. Just how do you replace a guy with that skill level who plays those kinds of tough minutes?

It’s unlikely we’ll see Elias Pettersson Thursday against Arizona, but there’s a good chance he’s back for the Sunday afternoon tilt against the Florida Panthers, a game that’s gonna be must-see tv for so many reasons. It’s the first time they see the Panthers since the Mike Matheson incident, and you can bet there’s going to be someone on the Canucks bench that at least has a word with the Panthers defender because they know they simply can’t let it go without a solid hit or a face wash or something. I’m not saying there needs to be a fight, but if nothing else, it shows Pettersson his teammates are going to have his back. Add in a visit from our old pal Roberto Luongo and it’s going to be a hell of a game. You have to think that Demko’s going to get at least one of those games, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the Florida contest.

THE COMETS ORBIT: The Comets found themselves in a bit of a pickle when it came to goaltending last week. With the trade of Anders Nilsson to Ottawa, it cleared the path for the Canucks to bring up Thatcher Demko. With Richard Bachman on the IR and unlikely to return this season, the Comets called up Ivan Kulbakov from Kalamazoo of the ECHL and the plan was to have the Canucks send Mike McKenna down after picking him up in the trade with Ottawa. Unfortunately a team with worse goaltending issues scooped McKenna (thanks a lot, Flyera...) and that meant a search for a goalie to bring in on a PTO.

It was Kulbakov who got both starts in Cleveland this weekend as the Comets were in town to take on the the Blue Jackets affiliate Cleveland Monsters. On Saturday Adam Gaudette had 2 G 1A and Vincent Arsenault chipped in 2G as the Comets took down the Monsters 6-2. Zack McEwan and Jesse Graham got the other Comets goals, and Kulbakov stopped 28 of 30 Cleveland shots. Gaudette had 8 shots on goal in that one. They met again on Sunday and Kulbakov was the story here with a career high 40 saves en route to a 5-1 Comets win. Tanner Kero had a hat trick, and Cam Darcy and Aresenault for his 3rd of the weekend rounded out the scoring. The Comets are now 4-0-0-0 and for the time being don’t appear to be affected by the loss of Demko, but they’ll have a big test tomorrow night as they head to Toronto to take on the defending AHL Champion Marlies. And you can catch that game on TSN2 tomorrow night at 4pm PST. We’ll have a game thread for it if you’re able to watch. The Comets also made a move today...

AROUND THE NHL: The Toronto Maple Leafs were pretty impressive on Saturday night against the Canucks. Last night against the Nashville Predators? Not so much. PK Subban, Mattias Ekholm, Kevin Fiala and Colton Sissons scored, and Pekka Rinne stopped all 18 Leafs shots in a 4-0 Preds win...

Jordan Binnington’s first NHL game was his first NHL shutout as he led the St Louis Blues to a 3-0 win over the still struggling Philadelphia Flyers...

Mikael Granlund scored and Devan Dubnyk stopped all 32 shots as the Minnesota Wild beat the Montreal Canadiens 1-0 last night...

Johnny Gaudreau continues to tear it up, scoring twice to lead the Calgary Flames to a 4-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks...

San Jose won their 3rd straight in a 3-1 win over Los Angeles. Erik Karlsson set a franchise record with his 3 assists. He’s now recorded at least a point in 13 straight games. Amazing that there’s people out there who think the Sharks shouldn’t resign him...

There’s a ton of games tonight for you to choose from if you need a hockey fix: The Wild are in Boston to take on the Bruins, The Devils visit Buffalo, Carolina is in Brooklyn to meet the Islanders, and Florida is up against the red hot Pittsburgh Penguins. The Flyers will try and turn things around against Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals, while the Canadiens head to Detroit for a date with the Red Wings. The Tampa Bay Lightning host Columbus, while the St Louis Blues are in Dallas for a big Central Division clash. Colorado are in Winnipeg tonight while the two late games feature the New York Rangers in Vegas and Edmonton in San Jose against the Sharks.