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GAME DAY PREVIEW- Game 48: Canucks vs Arizona

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Seems kind of ridiculous to be facing a divisional opponent for the first time in mid-January, but that’s the case as the Canucks host the division leading Coyotes in a huge game tonight.

NHL: SEP 26 Preseason - Coyotes at Canucks Photo by Derek Cain/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

VANCOUVER CANUCKS vs ARIZONA COYOTES

7:00 PM PST ROGERS ARENA, VANCOUVER, BC

TV: SPORTSNET PACIFIC. RADIO: SN650.

OPPOSITION BLOG: FIVE FOR HOWLING

It still looks and sounds weird, no matter how many times you say it: The Pacific Division leading Arizona Coyotes. And while it may be a surprise they are where they are, I think it shouldn’t be that much of a surprise, given how much time they’ve had to clean up the mess they found themselves in. They should have gotten better by now, the question remains: just how good are they?

And let’s face it, just like the Canucks this season, none of this matters if it’s not accompanied by playoff wins. Expectations are starting to grow in Arizona, as they have used years of awfulness to start compiling a base they can build a competitive team from. Hmm... sounds familiar.

For the Canucks, it’s another measuring stick game. You know, like the one they failed in Winnipeg on Tuesday night. Sure, they were the better team, and sometimes you just don’t get those bounces. Sooner or later they have to be able to beat the Jets. And tonight they have a chance to prove that their rise in the standings is no fluke.

LINEUPS:

Coyotes projected lineup

Taylor HallChristian DvorakConor Garland

Clayton KellerCarl SoderbergNick Schmaltz

Lawson CrouseDerek StepanPhil Kessel

Michael GrabnerMichael ChaputVinnie Hinostroza

Oliver Ekman-LarssonJason Demers

Jakob ChychrunAlex Goligoski

Jordan OesterleNiklas Hjalmarsson

Adin Hill

Ivan Prosvetov

Scratched: Ilya Lyubushkin, Christian Fischer,

Injured: Brad Richardson (lower body), Darcy Kuemper (lower body), Antti Raanta (lower body), Barrett Hayton (upper body)

Canucks projected lineup

J.T. MillerElias PetterssonJake Virtanen

Tanner PearsonBo HorvatLoui Eriksson

Antoine RousselAdam GaudetteBrock Boeser

Tyler MotteJay BeagleBrandon Sutter

Quinn HughesChristopher Tanev

Alexander EdlerTyler Myers

Oscar FantenbergTroy Stecher

Jacob Markstrom

Thatcher Demko

Scratched: Zack MacEwen, Jordie Benn, Tim Schaller

Injured: Josh Leivo (kneecap), Micheal Ferland (upper body), Tyler Graovac (lower body)

The big news here is the return of Brandon Sutter, meaning Tim Schaller will set tonight, and not a moment too soon. Schaller (along with Jay Beagle) have been a giant sucking void of awfulness of late, so maybe the return of Sutter will help. Yeah, I am aware of what I wrote there. It is what it is. The Coyotes are rolling with their 3rd and 4th string goalies with Darcy Kuemper and Annti Raanta both out, as well as former Canuck Brad Richardson and WJC hero Barrett Hayton.

GAME DAY CHATTER:

Really cool that Tyler Motte shared the details of his struggle with us, and we can’t say enough about how great a thing the entire #HockeyTalks movement has become. Out of the darkness that came from the loss of Rick Rypien, came something that has been so positive and helpful.

GAME DAY BATTLE HYMN:

Heading back to the archives for not just the finest band to come out of Vancouver, but arguably one of the top 5 metal acts this country has ever produced: Strapping Young Lad. From their live DVD ‘For Those Aboot To Rock’ (filmed at the Commodore), here’s “Oh My Fucking God”.