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VANCOUVER – Just for fun, imagine the Vancouver Canucks fully healthy – you’ll have to think hard because it hasn’t happened since Game 3 – and make a list of their National Hockey League players in order from best to worst.

Now, cross out the guys who are injured.

Don’t worry too much whether you have Bo Horvat or Brock Boeser at the top of the list because they’re both out for now. Defenceman Chris Tanev is probably No. 3. He’s hurt, too. And whether you have injured winger Sven Baertschi ranked ahead or behind Danny and Hank Sedin, he’s somewhere in the top seven.

Some of you may have shutdown (and penalty-killing) forwards Brandon Sutter and Derek Dorsett in the bottom half of your lists, but based on role and ice time under Canuck coach Travis Green, they’re probably both inside the top 10. Top 12 at worst.

The Canucks, in a span of about three weeks, have lost six of their top 10 or 12 players.

Which is why that warm breeze rushing east over The Rockies on Monday afternoon was British Columbia exhaling that Boeser’s injured foot will keep the talented 20-year-old out a matter of days, not weeks.

When the Calder Trophy candidate, who leads the Canucks with 17 goals and 30 points in 31 games, crawled excruciatingly off the ice Sunday and hobbled away after being drilled by Mark Giordano’s shot, it seemed any lingering hope for Vancouver’s season was leaving with him.

But a CT scan Monday confirmed that Boeser had escaped any fractures to his left foot — by far the best injury news the Canucks have had during a dark, bleak December.

“It’s good news that it’s not broken,” general manager Jim Benning told Sportsnet. “I’m relieved because he has been playing so well for us. His shot and his ability around the net to find pucks and make plays and score goals is huge for us. It’s not fractured, so that’s the good news. It’s still a bone bruise and he could be out a little bit. But I’m just glad he’s not going to be out for six or eight weeks.”

The injuries to Horvat (broken foot), Baertschi (broken jaw), Sutter (lower body) and Tanev (lower body) are all long-term. Only Tanev is expected to miss fewer than four weeks. The Canucks hope their seventh injured player, defenceman Erik Gudbranson (upper body), returns soon. He last played on Nov. 22.

Tough luck for the Canucks? Absolutely. They’ve been accustomed to it since they entered the NHL in 1970.

But eight months ago, Vancouver was a 69-point team going nowhere. Until Horvat broke his foot in an awkward solo collision with the boards two weeks ago, the Canucks were 14-10-4 and digging in for a long fight for a playoff spot.

Since then, they are 1-5 and have been outscored 26-6 in the losses. No matter what they say, the Canucks haven’t been close without Horvat and Baertschi and others.

Without Boeser long-term, they’d have had zero chance to stay competitive.

That’s why the sight of him sliding across the ice Sunday was the low point of the Canucks’ season.

“I just thought this can’t be happening,” Benning said. “With the injuries we’ve had so far, like, this can’t be happening.

“I’ve never been a part of teams that have lost this amount of top players. A third of our team is out. No matter how hard you try to plan to have depth in the organization, when you’re six or seven guys down, it’s just too many important players to try to replace. Having said that, the players we have left have to work and compete and be competitive until we get injured guys back.”

It’s stunning how quickly and dramatically the Canucks’ course has changed in a couple of weeks.

With the Montreal Canadiens visiting Rogers Arena on Tuesday, the 15-15-4 Canucks are as near 15th place as the final playoff spot in the Western Conference (four points) and in danger of sinking below .500 for the first time since Oct. 20.

“We had some momentum, our guys were getting some confidence,” Benning lamented. “(But) the players we lost, it’s hard to replace. Until we ran into these injuries. . . we were competitive in every game. We were still competitive when we were missing one or two players, but when you get to six or seven, this is a hard league to stay competitive in.”

Other teams manage it. The Anaheim Ducks, for example, have stayed afloat despite missing titanic centres Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler almost all season.

But the Ducks were a 105-point team last year and are trying to win the Stanley Cup. The Canucks were a 69-point team and are simply trying to improve and build towards something better two or three years from now.

“It just seems like bad luck,” Benning said. “The injuries we’ve had – Sven gets a puck in the face and breaks his jaw, Bo slams into the boards and never really got hit – it’s bad luck. I don’t know what we can do about that. It’s bad-luck things.”

They finally got a good-luck thing on Monday.

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Jonathan Quick makes the save against Brandon Sutter

Jonathan Quick makes the save against Brandon Sutter

LOS ANGELES — You’re often supposed to be careful what you wish for.

Travis Green knew what awaited his club Tuesday and he sounded part hopeful and part prophet.

“It’s a good challenge, a big challenge and I like it when you face some hard games,” the Vancouver Canucks coach said just before his club met the Los Angeles Kings. “You learn a lot about your team. And there might not be a bigger challenge in our division than coming into L.A.”

Well, he nailed that one.

The Canucks dug a two-goal hole before four minutes elapsed against the National Hockey League’s second-stingiest team and top-ranked penalty kill. They were overmatched and even overwhelmed at the outset and looked like they were going to go quietly into the SoCal night.

Then Derek Dorsett got mad.

Then the Canucks got resilient.

Then they found new power play combinations that actually worked.

It turned the improbable into an impressive 3-2 victory. And it capped a revealing four-game road trip in which the Canucks rode a roller-coaster of indifferent play yet finished 2-2 because they finally found some power play mojo.

Here’s what we learned:
Boeser and the dot

Brock Boeser was feeling it. He not only got to the faceoff dot on a new-look power play to let that heavy wrist shot go, it struck Jonathan Quick on the shoulder and Bo Horvat was there to jam home the rebound.

The goal was encouraging on several fronts.

For starters, there was movement. There was the symmetry of Henrik and Daniel Sedin and the smart cross-ice pass by the captain to find Boeser in his favourite shooting spot.

What took so long?

It was also Henrik’s first power play point of the season and the centre actually started the comeback. His shot off the wall went off the butt of Nick Short and found the short side.

And because you can’t really quibble with the Canucks’ play at even strength, the power play adjustment ended an 0-for-11 funk after being blanked with the man advantage in San Jose and Anaheim.

Green had three different power play alignments in practice Monday and said he had options. And his gut told him to find the right shooter and net-presence guy to complement the Sedins. It not only worked, it’s a bonafide first unit because there’s a passer, shooter and finisher.

If that wasn’t enough man-advantage hope, the game winner started with a sweet cross-ice feed by Thomas Vanek to Sven Baertschi on the second power play unit. He got Quick moving the wrong way and went far side.
Dorsett being Dorsett

Green didn’t expect Derek Dorsett to back down against the Kings, even though the pesky winger and leading goal scorer is skating on thin suspension ice. He has two instigator penalties and a third warrants a two-game suspension.

That didn’t stop Dorsett when he attempted to shift momentum after the Kings needed just 23 seconds to open scoring on Anders Nilsson, who got better as the game progressed. He stopped Tanner Pearson on a short-handed break with the game tied 2-2 early in the third period and then stopped Adrian Kempe with 3:48 left.

Dorsett took on Andy Andreoff but made sure he didn’t start the bout or throw the first punch. After that, he landed several blows.

The Canucks attempted to get Dorsett’s instigator penalty Thursday in Anaheim against Josh Manson rescinded, but the league cited distance travelled and fight initiation in its ruling. So, what do you say to a guy who needs to play on the edge, but not go over it?

“There’s not much to say,” said Green. “He’s an aggressive player and sticks up for his teammates. You never want to take that away from a player. I think both of his instigator calls could have gone either way, to be honest.

“He’s not a guy who goes and instigates a lot fights — he fights straight up his whole career.”
Gaunce versus Virtanen

Green said his rationale for playing Brendan Gaunce with Sutter and Dorsett was based on moving Markus Granlund to the middle between Vanek and Sam Gagner. Gaunce is a big body, but so is Jake Virtanen and there’s the debate.

Both have played 80 NHL games, but Virtanen is a better skater, has more scoring potential and Tuesday was tailor made to bring physicality back to his game. He sat while Gaunce took a bad offensive-zone tripping penalty in the first period that led to an Anze Kopitar goal.

You could argue giving Virtanen more minutes on a shutdown line might be too big an ask, but why not find out? Then again, it was Gaunce’s backhand saucer pass that sprung Sutter and resulted in his failed penalty shot.

OVERTIME: Green said he expects to have Chris Tanev (thumb) back in 1 1/2 weeks. That might make the defenceman eligible to return at some point in the team’s six-game road trip that opens next Tuesday in Philadelphia.