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Game 64: Downed in the desert

by Daniel Fung / Vancouver Canucks
The Vancouver Canucks were a team in shock on Tuesday and they definitely played like one.

Just hours after learning the best goaltender in franchise history had been dealt to the Florida Panthers the Canucks proceeded to drop a 1-0 decision to the Phoenix Coyotes to continue their freefall down the Western Conference standings.

Antoine Vermette's goal with 2:56 remaining in the opening period proved to be the only offence of the game as the Coyotes handed the Canucks their third straight losses – their 10th in their last 11 outings – while concurrently snapping their own four-game winless skid.

Vermette's goal came after a miscommunication behind the Canucks' net between Eddie Lack and his own defenceman created a turnover that led to a shot by Shane Doan from the slot which hit the post but was subsequently poked in by Vermette.

While goaltending was the topic du jour for the Canucks after their blockbuster trade with the Panthers involving Roberto Luongo, it was hardly a storyline in the game for the Canucks.

Lack, aside from his one gaffe, looked more than ready to take over the reins as the full-time number one netminder. In fact, he was the only Canuck who seemed to be on top of his game turning aside all-but-one of the 32 shots he faced in the loss.

The Canucks, meanwhile, managed to test Coyotes' goaltender Mike Smith just 23 times and were shut out for the fourth time this season.

Perhaps it was a good thing the Canucks didn't seem to have much chemistry up front on this night. It might have made any potential moves during tomorrow's trade deadline harder to stomach.

The potentially new-look Canucks will be back in action on Thursday when they wrap-up their two-game road trip in Dallas.

Alex Burrows' goal drought stretched to 37 games... Ryan Kesler, amidst all the trade speculation surrounding him, led all Canuck forwards in ice-time with 25:19... Brad Richardson lasted just 5:22 in this game before leaving with an undisclosed injury... Chris Higgins had a game-high six shots... The Coyotes won the season series going 3-0-2 against the Canucks. From Vancouver's perspective, they concluded the season series going 2-2-1... The Canucks fell to 11th place in the Western Conference with the loss as both the Coyotes and Jets moved ahead of them.

BACKUP PLAN: Luongo's departure on Tuesday meant the Canucks, for the second time this season, had to sign an emergency netminder to serve as the backup. Getting the call was former Cowichan Valley Capital (BCHL) goalie Pat Conacher, a Calgary-native who now coaches minor hockey in Arizona. Conacher happens to have a Canuck connection as well. His father, also named Pat, is a former NHLer who currently serves as the Director of Hockey Operations for the Utica Comets. Back on January 5, 43-year-old Rob Laurie served as the Canucks' backup goalie in a game against the Anaheim Ducks due to Luongo being out with injury at the time. Conacher is the fifth goalie to dress (not play) for the Canucks this season. Newcomer Jacob Markstrom figures to be the sixth on Thursday in Dallas. Credit goes to Joey Kenward of Canucks TV for these tidbits.

RARE CHANGING OF THE GUARD: It's been quite some time the Canucks have made a trade involving a goaltender on their active roster in mid-season. To find the last time they did that, you'd have to go back to February 15, 2001 when Felix Potvin was dealt to the Kings. Potvin, however, was actually in the process of being assigned to the IHL when he was traded. The trade where Potvin was acquired by the Canucks on December 19, 1999 - which saw former goaltender and now-CBC analyst Kevin Weekes head to the Islanders - is probably the last time the Canucks made a significant trade involving a goaltender on their active roster.

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