Canucks to celebrate 40th anniversary by retiring Markus Naslund's number, debate ensues

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naslund-ap-392-070217.jpgThis upcoming season is a landmark season for the Vancouver Canucks. It marks their 40th anniversary as an NHL franchise and it’s one with a solid, hockey history. While the Canucks have never won a Stanley Cup, their fans are very proud of the team and are more than happy to tell you all about it. As part of their festivities to help celebrate the team’s 40 years in Vancouver, they’ll be honoring one their more recent superstars in Markus Naslund.

The Vancouver Canucks will retire longtime captain Markus Naslund’s #19 to the rafters at Rogers Arena on Saturday, December 11th when the Canucks host the Tampa Bay Lightning. Naslund retired from the NHL following the 2008.09 season as the Canucks all-time leader in points with 756. Naslund played 12 of his 15 NHL seasons in a Canucks uniform and was the captain between 2000.01 and 2007.08. In a Canucks uniform, Naslund led the team in scoring for a club record seven seasons, scored 30 or more goals six different times and enjoyed three consecutive seasons with 40 or more goals.

Those are some dynamic offensive numbers that Naslund put up while wearing the crashing orca in Vancouver. You can’t help but wonder though that perhaps another legendary offensive superstar Canuck from the past might have been a better choice as far as retiring a number goes. A guy who played seven seasons in Vancouver, leading them to the Stanley Cup Final in 1994 and scoring 254 goals and 478 points winning the Calder Trophy along the way.

I’m speaking of course about Pavel Bure. This isn’t to denigrate the Canucks choice of Naslund as his Canucks career speaks for itself and the fans are more than happy to celebrate his great career in Vancouver. To the outside observer though it seems like a strange choice and, yeah, I’m an outside observer. It’s easier for me to identify the legacy of the Canucks of the more modern era with Pavel Bure.

Markus Naslund you may or may not recall as being part of being one of the more lopsided trades of all-time as the Canucks acquired him from Pittsburgh for Alex Stojanov. Bure, meanwhile, left Vancouver on pretty bad terms, tearing the organization a new one after being traded to the Florida Panthers, something which still probably lingers in the mind of those in charge of the team.

Then again, it’s possible that Bure could be one of the Ring of Honor nominees the Canucks will pay homage to throughout the year (former coach Orland Kurtenbach will be the first) and this argument is left moot…For the most part.

Jets chase Dubnyk during dominant first period

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Tonight’s game against the Winnipeg Jets is do-or-die for the Minnesota Wild. It looks like someone may have forgotten to tell the Wild.

Despite not having Josh Morrissey, Dmitry Kulikov, Toby Enstrom, Mathieu Perreault and Nikolaj Ehlers in Game 5, the Jets are off to roaring start. Through 20 minutes, Winnipeg has a 4-0 lead. They already managed to chase Devan Dubnyk from the Wild’s net, and although the game isn’t over yet, it sure looks like the Jets are heading to the second round.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

Dubnyk lasted just 11:59, as he allowed four goals on 10 shots. Alex Stalock entered the game in relief of Minnesota’s starter. He stopped all three shots he faced.

Jacob Trouba opened the scoring just 31 seconds into Game 5:

Bryan Little, Brandon Tanev and Joel Armia also found the back of the net for the Jets.

This is total dominance:

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Michal Neuvirth gets Game 5 start for Flyers; Couturier returns to lineup

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With their season on the line on Friday night the Philadelphia Flyers are making a change in goal.

Michal Neuvirth, who has played just 59 minutes of NHL hockey since Feb. 18, will get the Game 5 start in goal when they take on the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Neuvirth replaced Brian Elliott in Philadelphia’s Game 4 loss on Wednesday night after Elliott gave up three goals on 17 shots, the second time he was benched in the first four games. The Flyers have already used three goalies in this series with Elliott, Neuvirth, and Petr Mrazek all getting playing time. None of them have played well.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

When healthy Neuvirth had the best numbers out of the group during the regular season, but health has been a constant battle for him the past few years.

The other big lineup news for the Flyers on Friday will be the fact that center Sean Couturier will be returning after sitting out Game 4 with a lower body injury. He may not be 100 percent, however, given that he took pregame line rushes on the team’s third line between Scott Laughton and Wayne Simmonds. Valtteri Filppula was skating on the first line alongside Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek.

Among the other changes for the Flyers: Robert Hagg will replace Travis Sanheim on defense, while Dale Weise will play on the fourth-line instead of Oskar Lindblom.

Related: Penguins will not have Patric Hornqvist in Game 5

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Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Barkov, Karlsson, O’Reilly are 2018 Lady Byng Trophy finalists

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Aleksander Barkov of the Florida Panthers, William Karlsson of the Vegas Golden Knights, and Ryan O’Reilly of the Buffalo Sabres have been named as the three finalists for the 2018 Lady Byng Memorial Trophy, the NHL announced on Friday. The award, voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers Association, is given “to the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.”

The winner will be announced during the NHL Awards show in Las Vegas on June 20.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

The Case for Aleksander Barkov: The Panthers center certainly has the “high standard of playing ability” part down with a season that saw him lead the team with 78 points and finish tied for third in goals with 27. Barkov played the fifth-most minutes (1,743:32) among NHL forwards and only picked up seven minor penalties. This is the second time he’s been named a finalist in the last three seasons.

The Case for William Karlsson: Karlsson had a monster of a season with 43 goals and 78 points during the Golden Knights’ historic first year. In playing 1,534:47, the 25-year-old forward racked up only 12 PIMs. Should Karlsson win, he would become the first player to win an end-of-season trophy for a team in its inaugural season since Wayne Gretzky of the Edmonton Oilers won the Byng and Hart Trophy and in 1979-80.

The Case for Ryan O'Reilly: O’Reilly missed one game this season and logged 1,686:10 of ice time for the Sabres. He recorded only one penalty all season, way back on Oct. 24 versus Detroit, a slashing call. His one penalty is the fewest among NHL players who suited up for at least 41 games this season. He’s a previous winner having taken home the trophy in 2014 while a member of the Colorado Avalanche.

2018 NHL Award finalists
Bill Masterton Trophy (Saturday)
Norris Trophy
Selke Trophy
Vezina Trophy

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

WATCH LIVE: Penguins, Jets, Predators look to advance

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Game 5: Philadelphia Flyers at Pittsburgh Penguins, 7 p.m. ET (Penguins lead 3-1)
NBCSN
Call: John Forslund, Pierre McGuire
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Game 5: Minnesota Wild at Winnipeg Jets, 7:30 p.m. ET (Jets lead 3-1)
USA
Call: Dave Randorf, Louis Debrusk
Series preview
Stream here

Game 5: Colorado Avalanche at Nashville Predators, 9:30 p.m. ET (Predators lead 3-1)
NBCSN
Call: Kenny Albert, AJ Mleczko, Brian Boucher
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Stream

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]