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GAME DAY PREVIEW- GAME 59: CANUCKS @ LOS ANGELES

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Another night, another absolute embarrassment. And it’s only going to get worse. Maybe it’s time to accept some hard truths?

NHL: Vancouver Canucks at Los Angeles Kings Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Vancouver Canucks (25-26-7) vs Los Angeles Kings (23-28-5)

Where: Staples Center, los Angeles, CA

When: 7:30 pm PST

Where to Watch: Sportsnet Pacific

SB Nation Opposition Blog: Jewels From The Crown

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: The Canucks lost 9 straight games at one point this season, and yet during that run, there wasn’t 2 straight games that was as soul crushingly embarrassing as these last two. We’ve outlined all the various reasons: a bad defence, various players who have outlived their usefulness or have never lived up to their potential, line tweaks that could help and of course, injuries out the wazoo. At the end of the day though, almost all of these issues come back to one common denominator: Jim Benning being a terrible GM.

The time of giving Jimbo a pass because of Elias Pettersson has come and gone, and now we must realize that it’s time for him to go. I’ve seen suggestions that if the Canucks make the playoffs you couldn’t possibly fire Benning. I am not convinced of that, but if that were to happen, Francesco Aqualini would buy into that. And make no mistake, that is his goal here. He’s a business man and he wants and needs this team to be successful, because on ice success means money in his pocket. Unfortunately, much like his other white whale, the elusive ride sharing approval for British Columbia, a Canucks team in the playoffs is nowhere to be found.

Rumours of this team having advanced in it’s rebuild were incorrect. They are not a better team, in spite of the seasons by a handful of players. They have not resulted in more wins. The results you see are a false positive. The only reason this team is in the hunt is the futility of the other teams they share the conference with. This team may even be worse than last season’s if not for Elias Pettersson and Jacob Markstrom. Without the offence provided by Petey and if Marky is playing the way he did last season this team is dead last in the NHL and it’s not even close. While it’s been great to have them play the way they have, it’s all smoke and mirrors. A breeze is coming and as the smoke clears you will see that this team has not made forward strides. We tried to say this as they entered the season with the EXACT same defence that made last year so difficult to watch. With Petey and Marky both playing better than we could have hoped, we’ve duped ourselves into believing that things have changed.

This team should have been overhauled. Erik Gudbranson should NEVER have been re-signed. Alex Edler and Chris Tanev both should have been dealt. Brandon Sutter should have been dispatched. Tim Schaller and Jay Beagle? This was the off-season to propel the Canucks forward in their rebuild? It’s at the point now where the Canucks will actually do more damage to themselves going forward by making the playoffs. Look at the Oilers when they had that great season a couple years ago. How did that turn out for them? We’re almost literally one extremely shitty trade away from being them.

There are pieces that are going to be a big part of a Canucks future that, if given the right surrounding pieces can turn the Canucks back into a contender again. I have zero confidence that Jim Benning and his management team are the ones who can do this.

So now the Canucks are playing their 3rd game in 4 nights, against a team that’s probably a better one than Anaheim in spite of the record. Much like last night, tonight’s opponent sits a mere 6 points back in the standings, but unlike last night a loss for the Canucks could actually see them drop back in the standings. Last night there was a mere 2 games on the schedule. The 3 teams behind them are all in action. They all hold games in hand on the Canucks, so if the Canucks lose, they could fall as many as 3 places down in the standings. The only possible bright spot is that the Minnesota Wild aren’t playing tonight, so they’ll still be 2 points out with a loss. They can’t move up with a win however because the Wild hold the tiebreaker.

The Canucks are almost certainly going to start Markstrom again tonight. He was solid once again last night, and if not for being hung out to dry that game most surely would have gone to OT scoreless. Fatigue will be something to watch for tonight. The Canucks haven’t stated yet if Chris Tanev will be good to go tonight. Tanev was injured after getting tangled up with human garbage Ryan Getzlaf last night. Tanev did not return. This should mean that Guillaume Brisebois will finally get into the lineup, but depending on the severity of the injury to Tanev may necessitate another call to Utica.

Considering they got blanked by a career AHL’er last night, one would hope that the Canucks and Travis Green would bring their 4th leading scorer back into the lineup tonight to try and spark some offence. As we’ve learned when it comes to Nikolay Goldobin, you can’t assume anything and will have to wait til we see him on the lineup card. We also might have to wait and see about Jake Virtanen. Jake did come back and play after a pretty dirty hit to the head from Getzlaf, but only had 3 shifts in the 3rd period. And this may shock you, but there’s been nothing from DoPS about supplemental discipline for Getzlaf’s hit.

If you’re still holding out hope, this game is a must-win, as two of the next three are against far tougher opponents and a loss tonight could pretty much make what, if anything, this team does at the trade deadline.

Here’s what we should expect for lineups (via the Province)

CANUCKS’ LINES

LW — C — RW

Josh Leivo — Elias Pettersson — Brock Boeser

Antoine RousselBo HorvatJake Virtanen

Markus Granlund — Adam GaudetteZack MacEwen

Loui Eriksson — Jay Beagle — Tyler Motte

Defence pairings

Chris Tanev — Erik Gudbranson

Ben Hutton — Troy Stecher

Derrick PouliotAlex Biega

Goalies: Jacob Markstrom, Marek Mazanec

KINGS’ LINES

LW – C – RW

Alex IafalloAnze KopitarDustin Brown

Brendan Leipsic — Mike Amadio — Tyler Toffoli

Carl HagelinAdrian KempeIlya Kovalchuk

Kyle CliffordTrevor LewisAustin Wagner

Defence pairings

Derek ForbortDrew Doughty

Alec MartinezOscar Fantenberg

Dion PhaneufSean Walker

Goalies: Jonathan Quick, Jack Campbell

SICK BAY

Canucks: Sven Baertschi (post-concussion syndrome), Thatcher Demko (knee), Alex Edler (concussion), Brandon Sutter (groin)

Kings: Jonny Brodzinski (shoulder), Jeff Carter (lower-body)

SPECIAL TEAMS

Power play: Canucks: 16.1% (26th); Kings:15.7% (28th)

Penalty kill: Canucks: 79.8% (17th); Kings:75.9% (29th)

GAME DAY BATTLE HYMN: I had a chance to watch DEATH BY METAL, a great documentary on the life of Chuck Schuldiner, the genius behind DEATH. Whether you’re a fan of the band, or just like music documentaries this is worth your time. It details the struggles of a kid from Florida, insanely talented and always in search of perfection, and the numerous musicians who were part of this genre-inspiring band over the years. Funny, poignant at times and loaded with lots of rare glimpses into the past and insight from those who knew him best, it’s one of the better music docs out there. Off their first album, here’s Evil Dead and from ‘Human’, a video we played a lot on my old show back in Kamloops: ‘Lack Of Comprehension’ . RIP Chuck.