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GAME DAY PREVIEW- GAME 66: CANUCKS @ VEGAS

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After another rough night in Arizona the Canucks head to Vegas to take on Mark Stone and the Golden Knights.

NHL: Vancouver Canucks at Vegas Golden Knights Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Vancouver Canucks (27-29-9) vs Vegas Golden Knights (35-26-5)

Where: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, NV

When: 1:00 pm PST

Where to Watch: Sportsnet Pacific

SB Nation Opposition Blog: Knights On Ice

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: Thursday night in Arizona was a pretty good example of how while some things are getting better for the Vancouver Canucks, they’re still not anywhere near where they need to be in terms of making the playoffs, let alone making some noise there.

That’s not to say there’s no reason to stop watching, just know what you’re getting yourself into. Elias Pettersson is going to break Pavel Bure’s team rookie scoring record. Quinn Hughes will be here sometime this month. They are still capable (at times) of playing entertaining hockey. That’s all good and more than enough reason for you to ride this out with us. If you were hoping there would be hockey in the middle of April? You’re in for disappointment.

If you’re following closely, you’ll note the ‘Pettersson is slumping’ articles are starting to appear, and I get that. I mean anytime your offensive leader goes 6 games without a goal it’s something you should talk about. Is it a cause for concern? Not really, because this entire season is all about seeing what he’s capable of and establishing a base that all future accomplishments he has will be based on.

Every player slumps, it’s the nature of the game. Hell, Bo Horvat went into double digits between goals and still has more goals this season over last in the same number of games. And much like Horvat, Pettersson’s been seeing a carousel of linemates lately that’s likely at least partly to blame. That and the fact most teams could pull their goalie against the Canucks PP and still have success, anyway. The goals will come so I wouldn’t invest a lot of energy into worrying about him.

Another guy who’s been struggling is Pettersson’s usual partner in crime, Brock Boeser. It looks like Travis Green is shuffling him down to the 3rd line with Adam Gaudette in an attempt to shake things up, but the way things are going lately I wouldn’t look at any line as being set in stone.

The last time the Canucks were in Sin City they came out with a shootout win, their first in T-Mobile Arena. That game was not preceded by a couple days off for the players however and while I am not flat out predicting the boys get their collective asses handed to them today, seeing them play the way visiting teams suffering from the Roxy flu used to look should not come as a surprise. I mean, this is Vegas after all. I highly doubt they’ve spent the last couple days in their rooms watching game film.

This is also not the same Vegas team they played last time. A very good team got even better with the addition of Mark Stone from the Ottawa Senators, as Vegas prepares themselves for another long Cup run. Much of their fate will depend on hot players staying hot and injuries not derailing things, but they’re gonna be a tough match for whoever draws them. The only difference this year is they’re not gonna surprise anyone. Keep an eye on that 2nd line with Stone, Max Pacioretty and Paul Stastny. That’s a hell of a 2nd unit for any team. Unfortunately for the Canucks Tomas Hyka will not be in the lineup to answer for the head shot that concussed Sven Baertschi last time these teams met in Vegas.

Here’s what to expect lineup-wise via The Province:

Canucks’ game day lines

LW C RW

Tanner Pearson — Elias Pettersson — Nikolay Goldobin

Josh Leivo — Bo Horvat — Ryan Spooner

Antoine RousselAdam GaudetteBrock Boeser

Loui ErikssonJay BeagleTyler Motte

Defence pairings

Ben HuttonTroy Stecher

Alex Edler — Alex Biega

Ashton SautnerLuke Schenn

Goalies: Jacob Markstrom, Thatcher Demko

Golden Knights’ game day lines

LW C RW

Jon Marchessault — William KarlssonReilly Smith

Max Pacioretty — Paul Stastny — Mark Stone

Ryan CarpenterCody EakinAlex Tuch

Tomas Nosek — P-E Bellemare — Ryan Reaves

Defence pairings

Nate SchmidtDeryk Engelland

Brayden McNabbShea Theodore

Jon MerrillColin Miller

Goalies: Marc-Andre Fleury, Malcolm Subban

Sick Bay

Canucks: Sven Baertschi (post-concussion syndrome), Brandon Sutter (groin), Chris Tanev (ankle), Jake Virtanen (ribs)

Golden Knights: Erik Haula (knee)

Special teams

Power play: Canucks: 15.9% (27th), Golden Knights: 17.6% (23rd)

Penalty kill: Canucks: 80% (18th), Golden Knights: 81.8% (6th)

TANKWATCH 2019: Yeah, we’re busting this out. We’ve heard all the arguments and people’s definitions about what the word means. If you don’t think that increasing this team’s chances for the highest possible pick this summer shouldn’t be a priority I don’t know what to tell you. Yeah there’s lots of things that need to be fixed, but getting another top level prospect is something that this team needs in the worst way, so Jack Hughes or Kaapo Kakko should be in your thoughts daily. Yeah, there’s lots of other potentially good picks, and we’ll go over them as the draft approaches, but for now we’ll update on the quest for the bottom.

First off, there’s no one catching the Ottawa Senators. That is the the flat out most blatant attempt to run a team into the ground we’ve seen in ages, and it’s even crazier when you realize they don’t own the pick. It sucks, because I genuinely feel for their fans, and the fact that the Colorado Avalanche are the ones who own the pick is gross.

Let’s take a look at the standings and what happened yesterday to make them that way, shall we? (Standings from nhl.com on Mar 3/19)

As you can see, the Arizona Coyotes time in the Wild Card spot lasted about as long as a puddle in the desert, thanks to the Minnesota Wild spoiling Jarome Iginla’s number retirement ceremony last night. The Flames losing that was just beyond beautiful. The Coyotes had moved into the spot earlier in the day after their 3-1 win over Detroit, and the Oilers hurdled the Canucks with their 4-0 win over Columbus, which was the 2nd funniest thing that happened yesterday. Way to go for it, Jackets.

The other thing that helped the Canucks yesterday was the LA Kings moving to within 7 points of the Canucks thanks to a 6-3 win over Chicago. Can Willie D get his boys on a roll to move out of the basement? That’s the least he could do for what he owes this franchise, right? The Sens got spanked by Tampa 5-1 last night in a surprise to absolutely no one.

Today we’ll keep an eye on Colorado taking on Anaheim. A Ducks win will move them within 4 points of the Canucks with a Vancouver loss today. Ottawa is in Sunrise to take on the Florida Panthers, and we also have Minnesota hosting Nashville and Chicago taking on San Jose in the night cap at the Shark Tank. We’re also hoping for a Rangers win over Washington to keep them above the Canucks in the overall standings.

GAME DAY BATTLE HYMN: Sometimes music just needs to be fuckin’ silly, and that’s why I am glad for bands like Austria’s INSANITY ALERT. Their new album ‘666 Pack’ came out in January on Season Of Mist Records. Here’s the video for ‘All Mosh/No Brain’, and a great lil ditty called ‘I Come/ I Fuck Shit Up/ I Leave, and you can check out the whole album stream here. Love this old-school inspired crossover!