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GAME DAY PREVIEW- GAME 53: CANUCKS @ PHILADELPHIA

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The Canucks came out of the break firing on all cylinders against the struggling Avs, but face a big test in the red hot Flyers.

Vancouver Canucks v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Vancouver Canucks (24-22-6) vs Philadelphia Flyers (23-23-6)

Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA

When: 7:00 pm PST

Where to Watch: SNP

SB Nation Opposition Blog: Broad Street Hockey

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: They say when you go to Mexico, don’t drink the water. When you look at the way the Canucks played Saturday night after most of the team spent the All Star break down in Cabo, you may want to rethink that. A 5-1 win that saw the Canucks play one of their most dominant games of the season. They didn’t just shut down what is probably the best line in hockey right now, but never gave the Avs a sniff in this one, in a huge game that allowed the Canucks to leap frog the Avs into a Wild Card spot. Big games in February. Weird, right?

Even weirder, the Canucks sit just 8 points back of Vegas for 3rd in the Pacific, and hold 2 games in hand, one of which they’ll use tonight in Philadelphia. And as tough as this road trip is, it’s even tougher as they go up against the hottest team in the Eastern Conference right now. Yeah, it’s the Philadelphia Flyers.

Since the Flyers put Dave Hakstol’s tenure to pasture, they’ve been good, and are now owners of the longest current win streak in the NHL at 7 in a row. They’ll be the first to admit they haven’t all been barn burners, but the Flyers are getting it done on the backs of some lights out goaltending from rookie Carter Hart and a balanced scoring attack. Sounds familiar, right? The Flyers have a large hill to climb if they wanna make the dance, but a win streak like this has them back in the mix, something that seemed unthinkable a few weeks ago. Think back to their visit to Vancouver in December and how easily the Canucks handled the Flyers. This ain’t the same team they’ll see tonight, folks.

This might be the toughest stretch of the season for the Canucks. 9 games in 15 nights, 2 sets of back to backs in there, with games against the Flyers, the Caps, an improving Chicago team and then home to take on Calgary and San Jose before a California swing. All of that in just 2 weeks. If they come out of this still in this wild card spot, they might just be for real. Not win the Stanley Cup for real, but playoff games for the first time in a few years real. And that’s a pretty impressive feat given what was supposed to happen for this team.

Now before you all get all “Wow, look at Kent bringing us positive news and not implying there’s a darkside to it all”, you might wanna watch this...

Okay, take a deep breath and let’s unpack this. First off, he states flat out it’s not a concussion. I have already seen tweets stating it is, and that’s irresponsible. If Green says it’s not, it’s not until they say it is. What is worrisome is that it’s an illness serious enough to fly him home to see team doctors. There wasn’t a mention of “not wanting him to get others sick” or anything of that nature. I am not gonna speculate other than to say I have a really bad feeling about this and I hope to hell I am wrong.

So as Green mentioned, that means Tim Schaller slots back in and gets another chance to try and help Canucks Nation understand why he’s here. ‘Big body’ and ‘Good On The Forecheck’ isn’t enough of a justification, so we will need to see him actually do something that helps the Canucks win tonight. It speaks volumes about Bo Horvat that he’s put together the kind of season he has with the rotation of linemates he’s had to deal with.

As we did last time, we sat down with BSH’s Kelly Hinkle and chatted on their podcast about tonight’s game. You can check that out here, and after that, Kelly was kind enough to answer a few questions about the Flyers:

1- A lot has changed in Flyerville since they were in Vancouver. They’re now pretty much the hottest team in the NHL. How much of this is due to the coaching change?

It’s hard to quantify that kind of thing but I think a lot of it is. It seems that whatever weight was on the shoulders of pretty much everyone on the team has lifted and the guys are having fun again.

2- For those in the West who have been spending all our time making snarky posts about the weather, tell us about young Carter Hart.

Oooooh man, he’s so impressive. The thing about Hart is he’s so calm, rarely out of position, and reads play so well. There’s rarely anything flashy from him because he’s just in the right spot to let the puck hit him. Rebound control was a concern when he first joined the team, but even that has gotten under control of late. He’s preternaturally mature for a 20 year old. Like I said during our chat, we have a goalie stealing games for us right now and it’s been a long, long time since we’ve been able to say that.

3- It was really starting to look like a lost season in December and now the Flyers are within striking distance of a wild card spot. Can they? Should they?

Can they? Yeah, they definitely can. Should they? That’s a harder question. As fans it’s hard to root against your team to win. And now that they are winning, it’s actually fun to watch games again. But logically? It’d be super cool to get a top 3 pick, and it sure would help the team going forward. But there are upsides to the winning, too. Playing well is going to help young guys develop heading into next season and that’s important too.

4- And that brings us to the trade deadline. The Flyers have some decisions to make in terms of pending free agents, what do you see them doing?

I think Simmonds is gone for sure. Apart from that, things are up in the air. I’m assuming that Chuck will be taking calls on any player on this roster and if the offer is good enough, I don’t think anyone is safe from a trade. That said, I am not sure he’ll be actively looking to trade anyone outside of Simmer and maybe Voracek, since you’d likely get a nice return for him.

5- It’s been a real scoring by committee thing with the Flyers on this run. Who has really stepped up their game?

Nolan Patrick has looked fantastic after a very slow start to the season. Oskar Lindblom has stepped up as well. This gets back to the tank or no-tank thing. If the Flyers are tanking, it means Patrick continues to play terribly. Lindblom doesn’t come on. Hart isn’t playing well. If winning games means these kids are getting better, that really is the best thing for this team to do with the rest of this season.

Thanks once again to Kelly and the gang at BSH!

Via the Province, here’s the projected lineups for tonight:

PROJECTED LINEUPS

CANUCKS

Forwards

Tim Schaller — Bo Horvat — Jake Virtanen

Nikolay GoldobinElias PetterssonBrock Boeser

Antoine RousselBrandon SutterJosh Leivo

Loui ErikssonJay BeagleTyler Motte

Defence

Alex Edler — Chris Tanev

Ben HuttonTroy Stecher

Derrick PouliotErik Gudbranson

Goal

Jacob MarkstromThatcher Demko

FLYERS

Forwards

James van Riemsdyk — Claude GirouxTravis Konecny

Oskar Lindblom — Sean Courturier — Jakub Voracek

Scott Laughton — Nolan Patrick — Wayne Simmonds

Michael Raffl — Mikhail Vorobyov — Dale Weise

Defence

Shane Gostisbehere — Travis Sanheim

Andrew MacDonaldIvan Provorov

Robert HaggRadko Gudas

Goal

Carter Hart — Anthony Stolarz

INJURIES

Canucks: No players on Injured Reserve.

Flyers: Brian Elliott (lower body, IR), Michal Neuvirth (lower body, IR).

SPECIAL TEAMS

Power play

Canucks: 21st (17.2%)

Flyers: 24th (16.2%)

Penalty kill

Canucks: 17th (79.5%)

Flyers: 28th (76.4%)

GAME DAY BATTLE HYMN

Some homegrown metal for you today. Hexripper are a fairly new act on the scene, helmed by my good buddy Kyle Harcott (former drummer with DEVICE), and they’ve just started playing shows. This is a live track from their first gig at their rehersal space a few weeks back, but they’ve got a big show on April 20th, it’s called Another Perfect Day. It’s at the Smilin’ Buddha Cafe on East Hastings, and the headliner is the legendary THOR. If you like old school metal, you won’t wanna miss this.