Vancouver Canucks: December 2011 Preview and Predictions

Joel ProsserCorrespondent IDecember 1, 2011

VANCOUVER, CANADA - NOVEMBER 29: Goalie Roberto Luongo #1 of the Vancouver Canucks congratulates goalie Cory Schneider #35 after defeating the Columbus Blue Jackets in NHL action on November 29, 2011 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
Rich Lam/Getty Images

Vancouver Canucks December 2011 Schedule:

Thursday, Dec. 1st vs. Nashville Predators

Sunday, Dec. 4th vs. Calgary Flames

Tuesday, Dec. 6th vs. Colorado Avalanche

Thursday, Dec. 8th @ Montreal Canadiens

Thursday, Dec.10th @ Ottawa Senators

Tuesday, Dec. 13th @ Columbus Blue Jackets

Thursday, Dec.15th @ Carolina Senators

Saturday, Dec. 17th @ Toronto Maple Leafs

Monday Dec.19th vs. Minnesota Wild

Wednesday Dec. 21st vs. Detroit Red Wings

Friday Dec. 23rd vs. Calgary Flames

Monday Dec. 26th vs Edmonton Oilers

Wednesday Dec.28th @ San Jose Sharks

VANCOUVER, CANADA - DECEMBER 18: Ryan Kesler #17 celebrates with Jeff Tambellini and Mikael Samuelsson #26 of the Vancouver Canucks after Samuelsson scores against the Toronto Maple Leafs during the second period in NHL action on December 18, 2010 at Roge
Rich Lam/Getty Images

Thursday Dec. 29th @ Anaheim Ducks

Saturday Dec. 31st @ LA Kings


The Canucks play 15 games in December, eight on the road and seven at home. Five games are against divisional opponents.

The Canucks start off on a home stand then go on a road trip to the Eastern Conference. They then return for a home stand before departing on another California road trip to close out 2011.


Notable Games

Dec. 8th @ Montreal Canadiens

It is always special to visit an Original Six franchise, but even more so when it is the Canadiens. Aside from the number of Canucks that have either played for the Canadiens or were born in Quebec (Alex Burrows, Roberto Luongo, Maxim Lapierre and Chris Higgins), the Canadiens are probably the only team that hates the Bruins more than the Canucks.

Dec. 17th @ Toronto Maple Leafs

Just like the Montreal game, the annual game in Toronto is a chance for all those Ontario-born Canucks to play in front of family and friends. There is also the added connection of former Canucks General Managers Brian Burke and Dave Nonis, who currently run the Leafs. The stakes should be higher this year, as the Leafs are actually respectable for the first time since before the lockout.

Dec. 28th @ San Jose Sharks

The Sharks apparently have a hate on for the Canucks after last year's Western Final. The first game this year was rather feisty, and the rematch is certainly circled on the calendar for the Sharks. Hopefully Jamie McGinn doesn't put out another Canuck defender with his heavy hits.


Canucks to Watch

Roberto Luongo vs. Cory Schneider

You might have heard that the Canucks have a bit of a goalie controversy right now.

Schneider has won his last five starts, was named first star in each game, and also has improved his stats to a minuscule 1.93 GAA (tied for 4th in the NHL with Tim Thomas) and a sparkling 0.937 Save Percentage (2nd in the NHL).

Luongo, on the other hand, was playing solid hockey before being injured and ceding the goalie position to Schneider, who has run with the opportunity.

I don't see Schneider relinquishing the net anytime soon given the upcoming opposition and how the Canucks are playing, but all good things come to end eventually. I predict Schneider ends up with seven starts, and Luongo gets the other eight.

Ryan Kesler

Kesler is back in his Selke-winning, 41-goal scoring form...or at least getting close to to it. After missing the first five games of the season due to hip surgery and then a rough start, Kesler has put together a few multiple point games lately to take back his rightful spot as the highest scoring non-Sedin on the team. Expect him to continue to rack up the points in December.

Mason Raymond

Raymond will return to the ice on Dec. 1st versus the Nashville Predators for the first time since June 15th, when Johnny Boychuck of the Bruins broke his spine with an unpenalized hit. Raymond suffered spinal compression and fractured vertebrae, and spent the summer off the ice recovering. Expect a rousing standing ovation in Vancouver when he first takes to the ice.


December Predictions:

Last month, I predicted a 7-4-2 record and they actually went 9-4. For December, I predict the Canucks go 9-4-2. The road trip against the eastern Canadian teams is usually a good one for the Canucks, and they have quite a few games against teams that currently aren't in the playoff picture.

By the end of 2011, they will have used their game in hand to overtake the Minnesota Wild and reclaim the Northwest Division crown.