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GAME DAY PREVIEW- GAME 76: CANUCKS vs COLUMBUS

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Pull the Murphy Bed out, because John Tortorella is back, baby!

NHL: Columbus Blue Jackets at Vancouver Canucks Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Vancouver Canucks (32-33-10) vs Columbus Blue Jackets (40-30-4)

Where: Rogers Arena, Vancouver, BC

When: 7:00 pm PST

Where to Watch: Sportsnet Pacific

SB Nation Opposition Blog: Jackets Cannon

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: If it took you 75 games to realize the Canucks have no business thinking about the playoffs, even as close to a spot as they’ve been, thanks for getting here. Better late than never, eh?

Last night’s score flattered the Canucks, but in a grinding, physical, playoff style game, the Canucks were outplayed all damn night. So let’s just put all of this talk behind us and start focusing on playing these last 7 games, roster changes that need to be made and looking to the draft, alright?

There have been some positives down the stretch. Brock Boeser has been terrific, producing consistently and stepping up his defensive responsibilities (something Botch touched on in last night’s Athletties). Bo Horvat hasn’t taken a damn night off all season long, and Troy Stecher is evolving into this team’s best defenceman before our very eyes. And for those who think Elias Pettersson has somehow faltered because it’s been a heck of a long time since his last goal: what’s going on with EP reminds me of AI. Yeah, Artificial Intelligence.

At the start of the year, he didn’t get a lot of respect from teams (as they often do to rookies, especially ones who come from overseas) and he made them look foolish for it. They’re onto him now, so they plan their games around how to shut him down. It’s working, for now. But with every game, he’s processing stuff, adding a more physical element to his game (something that was noticeable again last night) and working out how to adjust to the increased attention. Mark my words, this kid thinks and processes the game in a way most don’t. He will solve the puzzle before him and then we’re really going to see what we have in Elias Pettersson.

As far as tonight goes, we should see a couple significant changes to the lineup. Thatcher Demko will almost assuredly get the start. We should also see Sven Baertschi inserted into the lineup tonight. That should see Tim Schaller sit to allow Baertschi back in. A couple guys who should sit? Tyler Motte and Jake Virtanen. Motte was capital B brutal last night, and Virtanen’s failure to take the man at the line in the 3rd directly led to the insurance goal for the Flames. I would argue that one of them should sit for Nikolay Goldobin, but let’s face it: the Canucks are probably not gonna put Goldobin back in, and he won’t be back next season.

As far as the Jackets go, this is going to be a desperate team the Canucks face tonight, and a rested one, too. They’ve been called out by their GM for their play since the trade deadline, and sit three points back of the Montreal Canadiens for the final Wild Card slot in the East. They picked up some big names at the deadline, none of whom have made a difference. And considering the number of picks and prospects that they traded away, this really had the look of a team that was going for it. You have to wonder if there will be heads rolling should they miss the dance. And let’s be honest, GM Jarmo Kekalainen blasting his team for a lack of cohesion is a tad tone-deaf at best. It’s his team. He built this. It’s not a blame a 3rd liner for your team missing the playoffs bad like we saw with Bob Nicholson and the Oilers, but it’s close. You also have to wonder if Tortorella can survive this team that was supposed to be built for long playoff run not making the post-season.

Sergei Bobrovsky will be a game time decision, and the Jackets are hoping he’s good to go because every game he misses is costly for them, as backups Joonas Korpisalo and Keith Kinkaid haven’t been able to get the job done for them. From the Province, here’s the potential lineups for tonight:

CANUCKS’ LINES

LW – C – RW

Josh Leivo — Elias Pettersson — Brock Boeser

Tanner Pearson — Bo Horvat — Loui Eriksson

Sven Baertschi — Adam GaudetteJake Virtanen

Markus GranlundJay Beagle — Tyler Motte

Defence pairings

Alex Edler — Alex Biega

Guillaume BriseboisTroy Stecher

Ashton SautnerLuke Schenn

Goalies: Jacob Markstrom, Thatcher Demko

BLUE JACKETS’ LINES

LW – C – RW

Artemi Panarin — Pierre-Luc Dubois — Cam Atkinson

Ryan DzingelMatt DucheneJosh Anderson

Eric RobinsonRiley NashBoone Jenner

Brandon Dubinsky — Alex Wennberg — Oliver Bjorkstrand

Defence pairings

Zach WerenskiSeth Jones

Markus NutivaaraDavid Savard

Scott HarringtonAdam McQuaid

Goalies: Joonas Korpisalo, Keith Kinkaid

SICK BAY

Canucks: Sven Baertschi (post-concussion syndrome), Brandon Sutter (hernia), Ben Hutton (foot), Antoine Roussel (knee), Quinn Hughes (ankle), Ryan Spooner (groin), Chris Tanev (foot).

Blue Jackets: Ryan Murray (upper body), Nick Foligno (personal), Sergei Bobrovsky (undisclosed).

SPECIAL TEAMS

POWER PLAY

Canucks: 15.9% (26th)

Blue Jackets: 15.3% (28th)

PENALTY KILL

Canucks: 80.4% (18th)

Blue Jackets: 84.2% (3rd)

Troy Stecher should be good to go tonight, which is borderline miraculous after taking a puck to the jaw in the dying moments of the game last night. It just adds to the legend of Troy from Richmond that he didn’t suffer a serious injury on the play. Quinn Hughes continues to skate, and I would guess that we see him on Tuesday night when the Anaheim Ducks roll into town. We’ll update with any changes as the day progresses. Here’s the game day preview from our pals over at Jackets Cannon, if you wish.

GAME DAY BATTLE HYMN: The playoffs are underway in the CHL, and one of the series I am keeping my eye on is the Victoria Royals taking on the Kamloops Blazers. The Royals had another solid regular season, while the Blazers got into the playoffs via a victory over their hated rivals the Kelowna Rockets in a one game playoff last Tuesday. The series is tied 1-1 heading back to Kamloops for Games 3 and 4 thanks to a 4-3 OT win last night in Victoria. So in honor of my old hometown, here’s some metal from Kamloops to get you fired up. King Humungus emerged from the ashes of Damned Grave (I am pretty sure we featured them a couple years back) and play a very blackened thrash/D-beat-ish style of metal. Off their third release, this is the title track for ‘Slayer’. Make sure to check out their bandcamp page and support independent music.