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GAME DAY PREVIEW- GAME 52: CANUCKS @ COLORADO

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After 8 1⁄2 months, the Canucks are back in action tonight against the Colorado Avalanche as they start another ridiculous road trip.

Vancouver Canucks v Colorado Avalanche Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Vancouver Canucks (23-22-6) vs Colorado Avalanche (22-20-8)

Where: Pepsi Center, Denver, CO

When: 7:00 pm PST

Where to Watch: SN, CBC

SB Nation Opposition Blog: Mile High Hockey

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: First, the good news. Not only is the team still healthy (no wacky vacation injuries or cracker-related mishaps to report) and Nikolay Goldobin is back in the lineup tomorrow after sitting out what seems like a few months. On a normal team this would be the big news coming out of the break, but this is the Vancouver Canucks and you know they don’t roll like this, so...

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you... Death Stare-Gate.

I swear to god...

I mean, the Canucks are locked in a battle for a playoff spot, and there’s a number of players that could be potentially dealt as a result of their performance this month, not to mention some pretty big RFA’s to deal with, but sure. Let’s talk about Elias Pettersson and the way he handles the media.

There’s a problem here, and it’s one that has happened before in this game we love. And it has everything to do with players who exhibit a personality. The problem lies in this game’s unwillingness to actually market these players and their uniqueness. Instead of taking this and using it as a way to draw people in, the NHL being the stodgy old bastards they are will go out of their way to stomp it out. They literally want the game to be like the old school table hockey games. Plastic cut out figures, with a sticker you slap on. Each player looking the same, just a number to tell them apart and nothing more. If you’re not concerned about Jim Benning’s comments, that the team is actually trying to get Elias Pettersson to not be himself when dealing with the media, you might want to ask fans of the Montreal Canadiens how they feel the team handled PK Subban and his outspoken manner.

It’s not like EP40 is saying controversial things. It’s not like he’s an abuser, or a racist or something where a team would definitely need to be doing some work with their PR department. Nope, it’s just a young kid with no time for stupid questions. And yeah, nearly every reporter out there’s been guilty of it over their career. We’ve all done it, whether we realized it or not. I love the death stare. It shows a passion that this team has lacked, and please don’t look at this as a knock on the Sedins. It’s not, at all. They were who they were and were always a role model for others in professional sports. But to take a kid who obviously thinks the game at a different level off the ice as well as on it isn’t a reason to clamp down on him. It should serve as a lesson to lazy reporters who need to step their damn game up. Elias breaks ankles. Learn to deal with it or you’ll end up looking like the media version of Mike Matheson.

Now onto the not so good news. Nathan MacKinnon’s healthy again, and that makes the Avs a little tougher to contend with. That top line is a hell of a lot of fun to watch, but not when they’re playing the Canucks. And man do they like to score. The Avs have put up 6 or more 10 times this season, including the last time these teams met. And let’s face it, it’s nice when you can give up 6 and still win a game, but it’s hardly a recipe for success. The Canucks are going to need a big game from Jacob Markstrom tonight, and going to have to be better defensively than we’ve seen. Asking for that seems pretty pointless. It’s like you’ve invented a car that blows up every time you start it, but instead of trying to fix the problem, you just hope that this is the time it doesn’t blow up because it didn’t blow up that one time, it just caught on fire instead.

That being said, the key to the Avs strength is also their weakness. If you can disable their top line, they’re not going to get much else done. Secondary scoring has been an issue for this team all season, and when you add in average at the best of times goaltending, it’s why the Avs find themselves struggling. It would be nice if you could always outscore this problem, but there’s too many teams in the NHL who can handle teams like Colorado defensively. A strong game in front of Markstrom will go a long way.

From the Province, here’s what we should see on the ice tonight:

CANUCKS’ PROJECTED LINEUP

Forwards

Sven BaertschiBo HorvatJosh Leivo

Nikolay Goldobin — Elias Pettersson — Brock Boeser

Antoine RousselBrandon SutterJake Virtanen

Loui ErikssonJay BeagleTyler Motte

Defence

Alex Edler — Chris Tanev

Ben HuttonTroy Stecher

Derrick PouliotErik Gudbranson

Goalies

Jacob Markstrom, Thatcher Demko

AVS’ PROJECTED LINEUP

Forwards

Alex Kerfoot — Nathan MacKinnon — Colin Wilson

Gabriel LandeskogCarl SoderbergMikko Rantanen

Matthew Nieto — Matt Calvert — JT Compher

Sven AndrighettoSheldon DriesGabriel Bourque

Defence

Ian ColeSamuel Girard

Tyson BarrieNikita Zadorov

Ryan GravesPatrik Nemeth

Goalies

Semyon Varlamov, Philipp Grubauer

SICK BAY

Canucks: No players on injured reserve

Avalanche: Conor Timmins (head, IR), Erik Johnson (concussion, day-to-day), Vladislav Kamenev (shoulder, IR)

SPECIAL TEAMS

Power play

Canucks: 21st (16.8%); Avalanche: 5th (25.1%)

Penalty kill

Canucks: 20th (79.2%); Avalanche: 27th (76.7%)

GAME DAY BATTLE HYMN: Some old-school speed/thrash for you today. Hailing from Worcester, Massachusetts, you can hear bands like Exciter and Anvil in their sound. This is the first track from their next release ‘Fallout Rituals’, due out in April on Shadow Kingdom Records.