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Tomorrow night the Western Conference’s #3 seed, the Vancouver Canucks, take on the #6 seed San Jose Sharks.  To give us a preview of what’s the be expected and some background on the Canucks, we called upon Mark from NucksMisconduct.com. Make sure to give them a follow on Twitter at @NucksMisconduct.

1.  I guess the most obvious place to start would be in between the pipes.  After Roberto Luongo’s meltdown in the 3rd period in Edmonton and Corey Schneider’s “injury”, what is the state of the goaltending for the Canucks?

I don’t think there’s any question that Schneider is “The Guy” in net unless he really falters and Luongo steps up (not a bad insurance policy though, eh?). His injury is quite mysterious – the always coy Alain Vigneault described it as “a body injury” – and it’s up in the air if he will start. While we’re hoping for a speedy recovery, I don’t think many Canucks fans will be too worried if Luongo has to fill in for a few games.

2. Is Luongo as good as gone in the offseason?  Or is that contract just too tough to move?

It’s really difficult to imagine a scenario in which the Canucks would keep both Luongo and Schneider. The only way he stays is if he grabs the starting reigns and has a dominant playoffs. Because of Luongo’s contract situation (his cap hit is very reasonable for a goalie of his quality, but the length is ridiculous) Schneider would likely bring much more back in a trade. But, unless something significant happens to change the status quo, Schneider will be the starter next year and Luongo will be elsewhere.

3. The Canucks were right in the middle of the league in scoring this year, how badly did they miss Ryan Kesler early on in the season?

Every team has injury issues and I hate to use them as an excuse. That being said, Kesler is an extremely valuable player and it hurts a lot when he is out of the lineup. He is extremely versatile, and offensively takes some of the match-up pressure off of the Sedins. It’s hard to imagine the Canucks having a deep run without Kesler. That being said, the team showed good resiliency in his absence and grinded out some tough wins. Hopefully that experience is of benefit in the postseason slog. And hopefully Kesler is healthy and primed for an excellent playoffs.

4. At times this season the Canucks power play was downright dreadful.  Can they get it together?

I hope so. As you say, the power play was atrocious for much of the season. Lately, particularly since the addition of Jason Garrison (and his canon of a slapshot) to the first unit, the team has picked it up slightly in this area. With the talent on the roster you can’t dismiss the Canucks power play potential.

5.  Kevin Bieksa recently missed five games with the always mysterious “lower body injury”.  How important is he to the Canucks blue line, and is he 100%?

Bieksa is another key cog in the Canucks lineup and a player who is really missed when he is out of the lineup. I am not sure of his injury status, but the fact that he returned for the final game of the season gives me hope that he’s good to go for the playoffs.

6. I have already come across some trash talk from the San Jose Sharks blog, Fear The Fin.  How physical is this first round match up going to be after the Canucks took out the Sharks in the Western Conference Finals two years ago?

I imagine there will be some bad blood, but that the teams will settle down pretty quickly and play good, uptempo hockey. While both teams have some players capable of kicking up the aggression – and it’s hard not to imagine that Raffi Torres will be fired up against his old team – I expect that both teams will be loathe to give the other many powerplay opportunities and will focus on playing good, smart hockey. Both teams have a lot of skill, so it should be a highly entertaining series.

7. Who has been the Canucks most improved player this season?

Jannik Hansen has really impressed me this year. He put up 10 goals and 17 assists playing mostly third line duty. He has speed to burn and some decent finish, and he is not afraid to muck it up and grind. Obviously I’m not the only one who loves what he saw from Hansen this season – the fans voted him as the Canucks’ Most Improved Player and Most Exciting Player in the team’s year-end awards.

8. How deep can the Canucks go?

The Canucks have the talent and experience to make a run to the Finals. That being said, unlike the past two seasons, they are not a favorite to do so. If they get hot and stay healthy I like their chances of reaching their second Cup Finals in three years. That being said, there are a lot of great teams in the Western Conference – San Jose being one of them – and it will take some very strong play for the team to reach that potential.

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