Vancouver Canucks: March 2013 Preview and Predictions

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Vancouver Canucks: March 2013 Preview and Predictions
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Vancouver Canucks' March 2013 Schedule:

Saturday, Mar. 2 vs. L.A. Kings

Sunday, Mar. 3 @ Calgary Flames

Tuesday, Mar. 5 vs. San Jose Sharks

Thursday, Mar. 7 @ Columbus Blue Jackets

Sunday, Mar. 10 @ Minnesota Wild

Tuesday, Mar. 12 @ Columbus Blue Jackets

Thursday, Mar. 14 vs. Nashville Predators

Saturday, Mar. 17 vs. Detroit Red Wings

Monday, Mar. 18 vs. Minnesota Wild

Tuesday, Mar. 19 vs. St Louis Blues

Thursday, Mar. 21 @ Phoenix Coyotes

Saturday, Mar. 23 @ L.A. Kings

Sunday, Mar. 24 @ Colorado Avalanche

Tuesday, Mar. 26 vs. Columbus Blue Jackets

Rich Lam/Getty Images

Thursday, Mar. 28 vs. Colorado Avalanche

Saturday, Mar. 30 @ Edmonton Oilers

The Vancouver Canucks have a busy month of March, with 16 games on the schedule. Great for fans, not so great for the players. The games are evenly split with eight home games and eight road games. There is a four-game homestand and a pair of three-game road trips. 

Six of the games are against Northwest Division opponents (otherwise known as easy points) and another three games are against the Central Division powerhouse Blue Jackets. 

 

Notable Games:

Saturday, Mar. 2 vs. L.A. Kings

The first of two games against the Kings, this one is big. The Canucks are going through a slump, and the Kings are surging up the standings. Schneider gets the start, and he is looking to prove himself after a few mediocre outings. Ryan Kesler is hurt, and Kevin Bieksa is questionable. This is a gut-check game, and after three days off to prepare, the Canucks better push back against the Kings.

 

Saturday, Mar. 17 vs. Detroit Red Wings

A rematch against the team that humiliated them 8-3 in what I like to call the Debacle in Detroit. And it's a home game on Hockey Night in Canada. Expect the Canucks to come out flying if they have any pride.

Should Kassian play with the Sedins?

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Thursday, Mar. 7 & Tuesday, Mar. 12 @ Columbus Blue Jackets

Not really notable for the team they are playing against, but it is odd to see the same team twice on the same road trip. 

 

Players to Watch:

Zack Kassian

Kassian started off the season on the top line, and was the Canucks' hottest player, before he eventually slid down the depth charts as players returned from injured reserve and he had some poor games himself.

But the broken foot that hobbled Ryan Kesler is a great opportunity for Kassian to redeem himself. Alex Burrows is likely to get moved from the top line to play out of position as a checking center, allowing Kassian to play with the Sedins as he did in the early going.

And this time the Sedins are back in sync, unlike the early weeks when Kassian carried the play himself for large stretches, so the potential for Kassian to produce is sky high. 

Kassian also might benefit from some extra power-play time with Kesler out and Burrows focusing more on shutting down opposing players.

 

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Roberto Luongo & Cory Schneider

Just like in real life, these two have to share a spot intended for one player. With 16 games crammed into just 29 days, expect both goalies to get multiple starts each week. 

With the trade deadline looming on April 3, don’t be surprised to see Canucks GM Mike Gillis pull the trigger on an early trade if a bubble team decides to make a good offer to upgrade its goaltending before the bidding wars start. Just don’t expect it to be a slam dunk that Luongo is the one packing his bags.

 

Jordan Schroeder

While the injury to Kesler is an opportunity for Schroeder, just as it is for Kassian, it also is a potential problem.

Schroeder has performed very well for a rookie, but now will be expected to produce more offense as he gets a field promotion to second-line center, a role he might not be ready for. As the second-line center, he won’t be getting the somewhat sheltered minutes he was getting on the third line, and he’ll be facing a higher quality of defencemen.

If Schroeder, along with his wingers, can produce, they’ll take a lot of heat away from the Sedin line. But if he can’t, the Canucks become a one-line team, and that could be problematic.

Also expect to see Schroeder back on the power play with the Sedins, as they formed an effective unit prior to Kesler’s return from his off-eason surgeries.

Nick Laham/Getty Images

 

Steve Pinizzotto & Nicklas Jensen

Pinizzotto is on an AHL conditioning stint after coming off an injury, but should be back with the Canucks in early March. The gritty winger has been effective in the AHL and won a roster spot on the Canucks coming out of camp last season, only to suffer a season-ending shoulder injury in the last game of the preseason.

Jensen is coming off a successful campaign as a 19-year-old playing in Sweden and should be coming back to North America shortly. He’ll start out in the AHL, but should get a call-up to the big team once he gets re-accustomed to the smaller ice.

While neither Jensen nor Pinizzotto figures to be an impact player for the Canucks, they still should get a number of games in March so Gillis can evaluate if they can contribute prior to the trade deadline. 

If they can, then perhaps some of the other forwards are surplus and could be part of a deadline trade. If they can’t, then Gillis will need to go shopping himself.

 

Prediction:

The Canucks ended February winning only two of their last seven games, albeit with some overtime and shootout losses. March seems tailor-made to bust out of any slumps.

With the majority of games against bottom-feeders, even if the Canucks struggle without Kesler, they should be able to stay at the top of the Northwest Division. Even with a pair of games against the Kings and a rematch against the Red Wings, the Canucks should come out of March with a sparkling 10-3-3 record.

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