Will Roberto Luongo still be the captain of the Canucks this season?

robertoluongo2.jpgLots of fans thought it was a curious decision last year when the Vancouver Canucks elected to make goaltender Roberto Luongo the captain. After all, the league doesn’t exactly enjoy this, even to the point where they won’t allow goalies to wear the captain’s “C” on their jerseys. After the Canucks bowed out in their second straight playoffs by the Chicago Blackhawks, a series that saw Luongo still play poorly against Chicago, questions were raised as to whether or not Luongo was distracted by being the team captain.

Now, it appears those questions are being addressed and Luongo might not be the team captain next season. Matthew Sekeres of the Globe and Mail does some digging to find out who might be the next captain in Vancouver.

Canucks general manager Mike Gillis denied an Internet report Tuesday that claimed goaltender Roberto Luongo had been stripped of the C and that centre Henrik Sedin, the NHL’s most valuable player, would take over as captain. Gillis said he had yet to meet with Luongo about the matter, but expects an audience in Vancouver next month, when the goaltender arrives prior to training camp.

After losing to the Chicago Blackhawks in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs for a second consecutive season last spring, Luongo said he would review his captaincy, particularly its media demands.

Gillis said the organization wanted Luongo to determine whether the captaincy had become a distraction. He added that the team made lots of changes this summer, and wanted to give the goaltender ample opportunity to digest a revamped roster.

“I don’t think it is [a distraction], but it comes with certain expectations that may be, at times, a distraction,” Gillis said. “It can be challenging answering similar questions over and over again.”

Being a team captain doesn’t just mean being the guy on the ice that gets to talk to the referees, it also means being the focus of the team off the ice and in the locker room during post-game interview scrums. Luongo, while making for a great quote after the game, doesn’t always come off as the most complimentary guy of his teammates, defensemen in particular. Switching off to a guy like Henrik Sedin makes sense in the big picture sort of way, especially after winning the league MVP award.

If the Canucks are going to make a change, however, don’t be shocked if centerman Ryan Kesler turned out to be the guy. Kesler is a guy that plays with a tough edge and plays leading by example on the ice. During the Olympics, Kesler was a force on the ice for Team USA. Bringing that sort of tenacity to the captain’s position could do the seemingly heartless Canucks (judging by the playoffs the last two years) a boost they sorely need.

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    Malkin to miss third straight game with lower-body injury

    Evgeni Malkin
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    Evgeni Malkin‘s “nagging” lower-body injury will keep him out at least one more game.

    Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said this morning that the star center will sit out tonight at home against the Ducks. Malkin already missed two contests this weekend in Florida. His status is day-to-day.

    The Penguins lost, 6-3, in Tampa on Friday, but rebounded Saturday with a 3-2 OT win over the Panthers.

    Pittsburgh’s next game after tonight’s is Wednesday at home versus the Rangers.

    McDonagh out with concussion after Saturday’s altercation with Simmonds

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    The New York Rangers will be without Ryan McDonagh tonight at home to New Jersey, the club announcing this morning that the defenseman is out with a concussion.

    McDonagh left Saturday’s game in Philadelphia following an altercation with the Flyers’ Wayne Simmonds that ended with McDonagh taking a punch to the face from Simmonds.

    Simmonds received a match penalty and was thrown out of the game, but did not receive any supplemental discipline.

    Given the standings, the Rangers can ill afford to lose McDonagh for long. They play in Pittsburgh Wednesday, followed by three home games against Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Chicago.

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    Lucic’s plan is to ‘remain a King’ for remainder of career

    Milan Lucic, Alex Burrows, Dan Hamhuis
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    Tuesday night, Milan Lucic will play his first game in Boston as a member of the Los Angeles Kings.

    It should be an emotional return for the big 27-year-old winger. In an interview with the L.A. Times, he recalled his time with his former club fondly, saying how great it was to be a “part of one of the best-ever eras to be a Bruin.”

    A pending unrestricted free agent, Lucic also commented on his contract negotiations with the Kings.

    “Nothing to get excited about,” he said. “There’s been two or three little talks here and there. My plan is to remain a King and hopefully finish off my career here. Like I said, I go day by day and you never know what tomorrow is going to bring.”

    Lucic has 12 goals and 18 assists in 50 games this season. Though the Kings reportedly want to keep him, the question is whether they can find the cap space to make it happen.

    Los Angeles already has Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, Dustin Brown, Marian Gaborik, Kyle Clifford, Drew Doughty, Jake Muzzin, Alec Martinez, and Jonathan Quick locked up long term. Plus, Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson will require new deals after next season.

    Related: Why Lucic is an interesting pending UFA

    Despres, Perron return to Pittsburgh for the first time since being traded to Anaheim

    FILE - In this Sept. 22, 2015, file photo, Anaheim Ducks defenseman Simon Despres skates before an NHL preseason hockey game against the Colorado Avalanche in Denver. Despres has agreed to a five-year contract extension with the Ducks on Friday, Oct. 9, 2015, solidifying his role in Anaheim after joining the club in a trade last season. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey, File)
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    Simon Despres and David Perron will return to Pittsburgh for the first time since they were shipped to Anaheim via trade.

    Monday’s tilt at the Consol Engery Center will be special for both individuals.

    Despres was traded to Anaheim for Ben Lovejoy last March, while Perron was sent to the Ducks earlier this season.

    Both players may have had some good times in Pittsburgh, but in both instances, things didn’t end up the way they had envisioned.

    “I don’t want to talk about that,” Perron said of things not working out in Pittsburgh, per the Post-Gazette. “I made some great relationships. Some really good friends.

    “The only thing, it didn’t work. That’s what what [general manager] Jim Rutherford and I and [head coach] Mike Sullivan talked when the trade happened. I wish it would have been different but that’s the way it goes sometimes. It didn’t click as good as you wanted it to be. I’m happy I got a new start and it’s going well.”

    The 27-year-old played 86 games over two seasons with the Penguins, and he managed to score just 16 goals and 38 points during that span.

    Things have been a lot better for him since the move to Anaheim. Perron has three goals, five assists and a plus-7 rating in his first seven games as a Duck.

    As for Despres, things haven’t been as smooth since his departure from the Penguins.

    The 24-year-old played well in the final month of the season last year, but he missed 42 games in 2015-16 because of a concussion he suffered near the beginning of the season.

    He’s been a welcomed addition to the lineup. Anaheim hasn’t lost since Despres returned to the lineup on Jan. 26.

    “He hasn’t gotten any points but we haven’t lost since he’s been back,” Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said, via the Post-Gazette. “We missed him for sure. In the playoffs last year, he was as good of a defenseman as we had. Big and strong and played against big opposition and he didn’t tire. The more games he gets, the better he’s going to get.”

    The defenseman spent most of his adult life in the Penguins organization and he admits that’s something he’ll never forget.

    “I guarantee that I’ll be a little bit emotional for the game [tonight],” said Despres. “Spent a lot of years here. A lot of memories and good friends. A lot of friends in Pittsburgh.”