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GAME DAY PREVIEW- GAME 65: CANUCKS @ ARIZONA

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Down to the desert for the tail end of a back to back, the Canucks may have Alex Edler back tonight as they try to solve the riddle that is the uh... Arizona Coyotes?

NHL: Vancouver Canucks at Arizona Coyotes Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Vancouver Canucks (27-28-9) vs Arizona Coyotes (30-28-5)

Where: Gila River Arena, Glendale, AZ

When: 6:00 pm PST

Where to Watch: Sportsnet Pacific

SB Nation Opposition Blog: Five For Howling

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: Last night was a microcosm of the Vancouver Canucks experience. It had everything we’ve come to expect from the Canucks this season: A lights out performance from Jacob Markstrom, someone in the top 6 scoring, and the team somehow salvaging a point out of a game they got outplayed in, and a power play so inept it was painful to watch. There was the Markus Granlund shootout appearance (make it stop, we’re begging you), and a bunch of lackluster perfomances from veterans who were supposed to be the ones leading the way. Hell, we even had inexplicable blatant penalties ignored and a disallowed goal.

It also had some abnormalities: Elias Pettersson not getting a shot on goal (again), the Canucks getting stymied by a goaltender that they’ve pretty much owned so far this season, a damn fine performance (again) from Alex Biega. This is supposed to be a Canucks team that is in the midst of a playoff push, but all I see is this:

It’s hard, because in all honesty this team has no business even muttering the ‘P’ word, but due to the ineptitude of others, they’re still in the mix. It’s not right. And it’s not what is best for this team. They say exposing these kids to a playoff series would do a world of good, but just how much exposure are they going to get? I mean, do you really believe that Nikolay Goldobin and Adam Gaudette are going to be on the ice when Brandon Sutter and Sven Baertschi return to the lineup? Do you think for one moment that Loui Eriksson is going to be in the press box? It’s a pretty unlikely scenario.

As far as tonight goes, there are a couple potential changes we could see. First one is in goal, as it would make zero sense for the Canucks to put Markstrom back in tonight after the ton of shots he faced last night. He earned a point for the team and a rest so give it to him and play Thatcher Demko, dammit.

The second and possibly bigger part is Alexander Edler may be good to go tonight, and while it’s going to be a game time decision, the feeling is the Canucks’ best D man is ready to return to action and if you were looking for something positive for the Canucks to even have a shot of making up the points that were lost in his absence this would be it. The question is, do they sit Ashton Sautner or Luke Schenn if he does return and who is paired with Edler? You can’t really break up Ben Hutton and Troy Stecher, they’ve really molded into a solid duo. What makes the most sense (aka what won’t happen) is the Canucks sitting Derrick Pouliot tonight and putting Biega with Edler.

There was a point earlier this season where the Coyotes were in the rear view mirror and some felt that was where they were destined to stay. There was that pesky bit about all the games in hand that they held and how if they made a halfway decent run with those that it could see them vault past a Canucks team that was struggling. I can’t recall who the guy was that brought it up, but I heard he’s a good dude. Anyway, here we are and technically the Canucks and Coyotes are both about to play meaningful games in March so I suppose if this were baseball champagne would be uncorked right about now. It’s not, so don’t.

If the Canucks want a shot at making this happen, and every indication we hear from the players is they don’t think they’re out of this by a long shot, they’re going to have to start beating teams like Arizona, and showing they’re worthy of snagging one of those spots. Last night they pulled a pretty glaring no-show in Denver against another one of these teams, so here’s a chance to make amends.

Another thing that has to happen is a fundamental rethinking of the way they approach power plays. Newell Brown used to be revered in this town, and now you feel as though muttering his name should be followed by spitting into the dirt. The Canucks power play is slow, predictable and easy to disassemble, and given the players that are utilized, especially in the first unit, it’s unacceptable for it to be this bad. Getting Edler back tonight might go a long way towards repairing the damage the so-called man advantage has done to this team’s chances nightly.

Here’s what we should see tonight line-wise (via the Province)

CANUCKS’ LINES

LW – C – RW

Tanner Pearson — Elias Pettersson — Brock Boeser

Josh LeivoBo HorvatRyan Spooner

Antoine Roussel — Markus Granlund — Nikolay Goldobin

Loui Eriksson — Jay BeagleTyler Motte

Defence pairings

Ben Hutton — Troy Stecher

Derrick Pouliot — Alex Biega

Ashton SautnerLuke Schenn

Goalies: Jacob Markstrom, Thatcher Demko

COYOTES’ LINES

LW – C – RW

Alex GalchenyukNick CousinsClayton Keller

Lawson CrouseDerek StepanJosh Archibald

Mario KempeBrad RichardsonVinnie Hinostroza

Richard PanikChristian DvorakConor Garland

Defence pairings

Oliver Ekman-LarssonNiklas Hjalmarsson

Alex GoligoskiJakob Chychrun

Ilya LyubushkinJordan Oesterle

Goalies: Darcy Kuemper, Calvin Pickard

SICK BAY

Canucks: Sven Baertschi (post-concussion syndrome), Alex Edler (concussion), Brandon Sutter (groin), Chris Tanev (ankle), Jake Virtanen (ribs), Adam Gaudette (ill).

Coyotes: Kyle Capobiano (leg), Jason Demers (knee), Antti Raanta (knee), Michael Grabner (eye), Nick Schmaltz (knee).

SPECIAL TEAMS

POWER PLAY

Canucks: 15.6% (27th)

Coyotes: 17.5% (21st)

PENALTY KILL

Canucks: 80.3% (17th)

Coyotes: 85.7% (1st)

GAME DAY BATTLE HYMN: Staying with the theme of trying to mix things up, here’s a trio from the greatest damn hip hop act in the world: Public Enemy (with some help from a couple friends you may know).