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GAME DAY PREVIEW- Game Thirty-Eight: Canucks vs Toronto

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Almost a month since they last took the ice, the Canucks, still recovering from a horrendous COVID outbreak, are forced to return to take on the Toronto Maple Leafs.

NHL: DEC 10 Maple Leafs at Canucks Photo by Devin Manky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

VANCOUVER CANUCKS (16-18-3) vs TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS (28-12-4)

ROGERS ARENA- VANCOUVER, BC

4:00PM PST

TV: SPORTSNET. RADIO: SPORTSNET 650

OPPOSING BLOG: PENSION PLAN PUPPETS

This might be the dumbest game this franchise has ever played, and yes we are completely aware of the number of times this statement could have been made over the past 51 years.

Coming off the worst COVID outbreak in professional sports, still not whole as a team and having had just a couple opportunities to be on the ice, the Vancouver Canucks are now being made to complete this season from hell, one with zero payoff without some kind of cosmic intervention that sees them win each of these 19 remaining games in the next 32 days. And in true NHL style, it starts against the Leafs early in the afternoon local time, so that the Leafs fan base can be catered to.

Honestly, I had grown tired of the complaining about these start times. It was never ever going to change, so why bother? But this one seems to be the rotten cherry on the cruelty sundae that is the NHL’s insistence that the Canucks, now sitting just one point ahead of the Ottawa Senators (with 8 games in hand, mind you), play out this schedule that offers them no hope of a playoff run at the end.

Nope, it’s just get back to work for a crew that not only endured the illness themselves, but had to deal with family members also infected. We’ll cover the ridiculousness that they’ve had to deal with in order to scrap a lineup together shortly.

At the beginning of this season, we told you (based on the brutal off-season from GM Jim Benning) that the Canucks had actually taken a couple steps back on the progress made last season, and to lower your expectations. We had no idea that we’d be revising that to ask you to get into a Buffalo Sabres fans mindset (And we say that to our expansion brothers and sisters with the utmost respect). This is going to be ugly.

The greatest victory that we can hope for is that the Canucks can make it through this absolutely brutal schedule without any serious injuries to any of the returning players, and let’s be crystal clear here: given their drop in conditioning due to the illness and layoff, combined with the sheer number of games, travel and lack of rest, this is a disaster in the making.

You only need to look at the records of teams that had to shut down due to COVID outbreaks after they returned to know how this is going to go. Factor in that none of these teams had the same number of players affected, and that it was the Brazilian variant of the virus that hit the Canucks, and it genuinely wouldn’t shock me if they didn’t win again this season. While we are grateful that the players, staff and their family members are recovering, making them return to finish this season out is senseless and cruel and not even a 19 game winning streak could change my mind on this.

LINEUPS

Courtesy of nhl.com, this is what we should prepare to see tonight:

Maple Leafs projected lineup

Alex GalchenyukAuston MatthewsMitchell Marner

Nicholas RobertsonJohn TavaresWilliam Nylander

Zach HymanAlexander KerfootIlya Mikheyev

Joe ThorntonJason SpezzaWayne Simmonds

Morgan RiellyTJ Brodie

Jake MuzzinJustin Holl

Travis DermottZach Bogosian

Jack Campbell

David Rittich

Scratched: Scott Sabourin, Pierre Engvall, Adam Brooks

Injured: Frederik Andersen (lower body), Riley Nash (lower body)

COVID-19 protocol: Nick Foligno, Ben Hutton

Canucks projected lineup

Nils HoglanderBo HorvatBrock Boeser

Jimmy VeseyJ.T. MillerJayce Hawryluk

Antoine RousselBrandon SutterTravis Boyd

Zack MacEwenTyler GraovacMarc Michaelis

Quinn HughesTravis Hamonic

Alexander EdlerTyler Myers

Ashton SautnerJalen Chatfield

Braden Holtby

Michael DiPietro

Scratched: Brogan Rafferty, Guillaume Brisebois

Injured: Thatcher Demko (COVID-19), Tyler Motte (COVID-19), Olli Juolevi (COVID-19), Elias Pettersson (upper body), Tanner Pearson (lower body), Jay Beagle (undisclosed), Justin Bailey (shoulder), Micheal Ferland (head)

COVID-19 protocol: Jake Virtanen, Nate Schmidt, Matthew Highmore, Madison Bowey

Keep in mind, that the Canucks lineup in particular could change. It should also be noted that this list does not include the current Taxi squad, which has Kole Lind, Guillaume Brisebois, G Arturs Silovs and Brogan Rafferty. Let’s be honest though: this is not an NHL lineup. This is what you would expect for an opening of training camp exhibition game roster.

And wait, it gets better. The Leafs could see Auston Matthews and William Nylander return to their lineup tonight. I suppose if there’s a bright spot, it’s that thanks to still being in quarantine, Ben Hutton cannot score a hat trick against the Canucks tonight.

GAME DAY CHATTER

And on a more positive note, tonight is the annual Canucks For Kids Telethon game. We know that many of you have been struggling through the pandemic, but for those of you that can, please give generously to help the kids.

GAME DAY BATTLE HYMN

This song seemed appropriate. especially given that the band’s drummer nearly died from COVID last year. I don’t know what’s gonna happen, but man seeing them cram as many wins into this garbage schedule as a big fuck you to the NHL would be awesome. Enjoy the game if you can, don’t forget to donate, and welcome back.

Go Canucks Go.