Canucks Week Ahead - December 15, 2010

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With Markus Naslund’s jersey number officially retired, the only thing left to do is to admire it from below. Hanging up there in the rafters next to Stan Smyl’s number 12 and Trevor Linden’s number 16, it fits in perfectly.

Three separate yet overlapping eras of Canucks teams, each of which captivated the city of Vancouver in its own way, are represented up there by their respective captains – the ones who led those teams into battle and always inspired them to play harder and better, night after night.

Questioning Luongo’s Starts:

This past week, there have been questions swirling around another past Canucks captain – goaltender Roberto Luongo. The issue is the number of games he has played thus far in the season, and the appearance that the promise made by Canucks management to have a better rested Luongo come playoff time, was nothing but empty.

Lucky for you, I’m a mathematician and I know know that what a particular player is “on pace for” can change in a heartbeat, so I took a look at what Luongo’s “pace” might look like in the coming month. (BTW, I’m not really a mathematician)

By end of December, the Canucks will have played one more back-to-back. Assuming that Schneider gets one of those two games, and Luongo starts the rest, Lou will have started in 30 out of 36 Canucks games.

That would put him on pace for 68 games, leaving Schneider with only 14 starts on the season.

But by January 14, the Canucks have 2 more back-to-backs on the calendar. Assuming Schneider gets one game in each of those sets, Luongo will then have started in 35 of 44 games

This would put him on pace for only 65 starts, meaning Schneider would be starting 17.

The schedule in the remainder of January and the entire month of February remains packed, and I’m not going to bother trying to predict when Alain Vigneault will choose to play his backup goalie, but you can see that although the pace for Luongo’s starts looks high right now, it will be decreasing as the schedule tightens up.

On the Team 1040 on Tuesday, Mike Gillis reiterated that the team’s plan remains to start Schneider in 20 games this season, and they have not wavered from that. He also said that although the plan may not be evident to everyone (and I paraphrase here), it is in place.

Now on to this week’s games.

Columbus Blue Jackets – Wednesday December 15

History indicates that this might be an easy matchup for the Canucks, as they’ve won 4 of the last 5 meetings between the two. Really though, what difference does history make. The Canucks are playing this year’s version of the Blue Jackets, so they better not be relying on past results.

The Jackets, for their part, seem to be an entirely different team this season, and it’s mostly due to new head coach Scott Arniel (who coached Vancouver’s farm team – Manitoba Moose last season). Their record so far is 16-11-1, the teams best start in its short history.

Who To Watch

Sure it’s the obvious choice, but just why bother keying on anyone else? Rick Nash has scored 17 goals for the Jackets so far this season. The next on the list is Antoine Vermette with 9.

Nash is also coming off being named the NHL’s 3rd Star of the past week, so he’s red-hot.

Toronto Maple Leafs – Saturday December 18

The Leafs have 8 points fewer than the Canucks in league standings, and their team is nowhere near as deep, yet every time these two meet, it’s exciting.

In their last two games against each other, the Leafs jumped out to a 3-0 and 2-0 lead. The Canucks came-back to win both of those, but it wasn’t without a serious early scare.

Of course, despite being played in Vancouver, the game will start at 4 P.M. Pacific. The fact that the CBC annually schedules this game on Toronto’s schedule never fails to anger Vancouverites.

Vancouver, if you’re wondering the extent of which Toronto looks down upon you, click here to see this post written last year.

Who To Watch:

After missing 16 games with a leg injury, Dion Phaneuf returned last week against the Flyers. On Tuesday, in his third game back, he scored in the Leaf’s win over the Oilers. If this is any signal that he’s back in full force, it could be interesting for many of the Canucks players, who used to have a serious personal hatred for Phaneuf during this time with the Calgary Flames.

-Post by Head to the Net. To read more exclusive Canucks coverage, read and follow: Head to the Net & @HeadtotheNet

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Omar A has worked for 24 hours, the Canadian Press and TSN. He graduated from the Journalism program at the University of King's College
@omarcanuck

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