Poll: Who's more annoying, Ilya Kovalchuk or Lebron James?

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Chances are that if you’re even vaguely interested in professional sports, you’ve probably heard that Lebron James is going to make his long-awaited free agent decision tonight on live TV. If you frequent this site, you’re probably also a little beaten down by the on-again, off-again saga that is Ilya Kovalchuk’s contract negotiations.

As followers of athletic events, it’s crucial that we separate some of the egomania and greed from the games. Otherwise we’d likely feel sour whether our favorite team was dousing each other with victory champagne or sulking their way to the worst record in their given league.

Still, there’s no doubt that Lebron-Kovalchuk talk has stretched itself from charming to exhausting. With all the negativity toward the two parties on Twitter and Internet forums around the world, I couldn’t help but wonder which one annoys hockey fans the most? Before I drop the poll on you, a few points for and against each one being the champion of irritation.

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Why he’s annoying: Lebron James might be compared to Michael Jordan, but he’s had the red carpet rolled out for him since Day One. He owned a Hummer in high school, was given a huge contract from Nike before he played a single NBA game and has been crowned the “King” without winning a title.

Redeeming qualities: That being said, he’s seen something Kovalchuk hasn’t. That would be the second round of the playoffs (not to mention the third round and the NBA finals). He’s also known as someone who makes his teammates better, a qualification that is still in limbo for Kovalchuk. Let’s not forget, also, that the NBA salary cap is a lot more conducive to the kind of deal Lebron wants as opposed to Kovy. He’s also a charming fellow.

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Why he’s annoying: He passed up the kind of lifetime, ridiculous deal he’s hoping for with the team that drafted him in Atlanta. Whether it’s the fault of his teammates or not, he’s 1-8 in his playoff career. Even in the Olympics, Kovalchuk has had very little “big game” success. It’s not like he was starving with his previous $7.5 million per year contract.

Redeeming qualities: Despite those flaws, he’s one of the most consistent scorers in the league even though he only benefited from playing a few years with capable teammates such as Marian Hossa, Marc Savard and Dany Heatley. Only Alex Ovechkin scored more goals since the lockout. Kovalchuk might have spurned the Thrashers, but he also suffered quite some time with that team. Unlike Lebron, Kovalchuk had to fight through the culture shock of going from Russia to Atlanta. By all accounts, he seems like a good person to boot.

So with that out of the way, which athlete leaves you more annoyed: Lebron or Kovalchuk? Vote in the poll below.

Video: Canucks escape Arizona with another win for the moms

at Pepsi Center on February 9, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.
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With their mothers traveling on the road trip — Matt Bartkowski‘s mom, Beth, has become a cult hero in Vancouver after another priceless media interview — the Canucks took back-to-back wins, moving them right back into the thick of the playoff fight in the Western Conference.

After beating the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday, the Canucks held on for the 2-1 victory in Arizona on Wednesday, despite being without Brandon Sutter (broken jaw), Alex Edler (broken fibula) and Derek Dorsett, who was scratched from the lineup due to illness, as per Sportsnet’s Dan Murphy.

It was only a few days ago, following a home loss to the Calgary Flames, that it felt like the Canucks’ playoff hopes were essentially dashed. They fielded their healthiest lineup in months and couldn’t score and couldn’t win.

Two quick wins later, they’re two points out of a Wild Card spot in the West, despite getting outshot in Arizona.

Up by a goal in the third period, defenseman Alex Biega played the hero, pulling the puck out of the crease after it got by Ryan Miller on a backhand shot from Kyle Chipchura, maintaining Vancouver’s lead.

Phaneuf burned on Zetterberg game-winner in Sens debut

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A day after getting traded out of Toronto, Dion Phaneuf made his Ottawa Senators debut.

It ended with a 3-1 road loss for the Senators, and Phaneuf getting burned by Henrik Zetterberg on the eventual game winner early in the third period.

Zetterberg picked up the puck near the Ottawa blue line, beat Phaneuf to the outside, slipped the puck under the stick of the Sens’ newest blue liner and quickly roofed his shot on Craig Anderson.

“He made a real good play and you’ve got to give credit when credit is due,” Phaneuf told the Ottawa Sun.

“I put my stick there, he put (the puck) under and he made a good shot. I’ve got to have a better stick in that situation, but you’ve got to give him credit for that play.”

Phaneuf finished the night with a minus-one rating and two hits in almost 22 minutes of ice time, putting him second among Sens defensemen in that category behind Erik Karlsson, who played a whopping 33:30.

Phaneuf drilled Red Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser with a hard slap shot early in the third period.

DeKeyser played one more shift — all of 10 seconds — before exiting the game.

Video: Rangers shut out red-hot Sidney Crosby and the Penguins

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The New York Rangers are likely too far behind the Washington Capitals to take any legitimate run at the Atlantic Division down the stretch.

But winners now of four straight, the Rangers have opened up a bit of a gap between them and other Eastern Conference teams in the playoff race. New York scored a 3-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, winners in six of their last seven games, on Wednesday.

In the process, they held a red-hot Sidney Crosby off the score sheet, which has been a difficult, sometimes impossible task for opposing teams since about the middle of December. He entered this game with a seven-game scoring streak.

(In fact, New York held No. 87 to without a shot on goal in the entire game.)

Henrik Lundqvist stopped all 34 shots he faced for the shutout.

Kevin Hayes gave the Rangers the lead in the first period, before Dominic Moore and Jesper Fast put the game away in the third.

Pittsburgh remains in the second Wild Card spot in the East. The Rangers now move three points clear of the rival Islanders for second in the Metropolitan.

Video: Wideman hearing ‘a tricky case’ as NHLPA hopes to get 20-game suspension reduced

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There is no certain timeline for when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman might rule on Dennis Wideman‘s appeal, according to a report from hockey insider Darren Dreger on NBCSN, as the Calgary Flames defenseman hopes to get his 20-game ban for hitting linesman Don Henderson reduced.

“Now, ultimately what they’re hoping from a Wideman perspective and the Players’ Association is that commissioner Gary Bettman will rule and he will reduce the number of games suspended down from 20,” said Dreger during a segment on NBCSN.

“Is he going to reduce it by three games? Five games seems a bit of a stretch. And when might he do that? There’s no timeline on this.”