Colorado Avalanche v Phoenix Coyotes

Riding the Zamboni – Monday, February 7th

For recaps of the first half of Monday’s games, click here. Now let’s take a look at the three latest games.

Phoenix 3, Colorado 0

Ilya Bryzgalov now has a two-game shutout streak going after stuffing all 26 of the struggling Avs’ shots. It also marked the second straight game in which Colorado went without scoring a goal, as the young bunch have lost four games in a row. (Maybe they need Peter Forsberg more than anyone realized?)

Radim Vrbata scored two goals including the game-winner while Scottie Upshall also found the back of the net. Ray Whitney assisted on both of Vrbata’s goals. The Coyotes are in fifth place for now with 63 points while the Avalanche lag behind the pack, stuck at 56.

Calgary 3, Chicago 1

The red-hot Flames are 7-0-1 in their last eight games, a streak that seats them in the West’s top eight for the first time since October 29th.

Curtis Glencross provided the game-winner while Mikael Backlund scored the game’s opening tally and Rene Bourque iced the game with an empty-netter. Patrick Kane scored the only goal for what must be an increasingly worried Blackhawks team.

Miikka Kiprusoff stopped all but one of the 23 shots he faced, beating out Corey Crawford (25 out of 27). Calgary is now in eighth place while Chicago is in 11th.

Vancouver 4, Ottawa 2

On a Monday night with some mild upsets (Edmonton shutting out Nashville, Toronto continuing Atlanta’s frustrations), it’s good to see that there’s at least some order remaining. The Canucks won their sixth win in a row as Mikael Samuelsson scored two goals and provided an assist to help Vancouver hold off the desperate Senators.

Ottawa’s losing streak now eclipsed the double-digit mark, as they dropped their 10th game in a row. There isn’t much of a bright side to look on for the Sens, but at least recently healthy center Jason Spezza was productive, scoring a goal and assisting on Nick Foligno’s tally.

Oilers go captain-less, name four alternates instead

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Edmonton’s made a fairly significant shift in its leadership group.

The big news is the Oilers won’t have a captain this season, as Andrew Ference will relinquish the “C” he’s worn for the last two years.

Ference will, however, remain part of the group and wear an “A” as part of a four-man alternate captain collective, one that also includes Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall.

The news of Ference being removed as captain doesn’t come as a huge surprise. The veteran d-man is a well-respected leader, but isn’t expected to be in the lineup every night this season.

The decision to go without a captain, though, is something of a surprise, especially given what new head coach Todd McLellan endured during his final season in San Jose.

The Sharks’ captaincy issue — stripping Joe Thornton, then going with four rotating alternates — was an ongoing problem, something that players, coaches and GM Doug Wilson had to repeatedly address until it blew up in spectacular fashion.

That said, the circumstances in Edmonton are quite different.

It’s believed the club’s intentionally keeping the captaincy vacant, on the assumption that Connor McDavid will evolve into a superstar and the club’s unquestioned leader.

Finally, McLellan noted that with Eberle currently sidelined, a fifth Oiler would be added to the leadership group — veteran forward Matt Hendricks, who will serve as a temporary alternate.

Brandon Sutter didn’t have the greatest preseason

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When Brandon Sutter was acquired by the Vancouver Canucks, GM Jim Benning called the 26-year-old a “foundation piece for our group going forward.”

Sutter was quickly signed to a five-year extension worth almost $22 million, more evidence of how highly management thought of the player.

Fast forward to yesterday, when Benning was asked the following question:

“What does it say that you made the trade for Sutter, you called him a ‘foundation’ player, and it took him until the final night of the preseason to find a spot (with the Sedins) on the wing, which isn’t his natural position?”

Here was Benning’s response:

“Well, [head coach Willie Desjardins] wants to try that out, he thinks that’s going to be a good fit. At various times, the Sedins played with wingers with speed, with [Ryan Kesler], who could get in on the forecheck and had a good shot. Sutter brings some of those qualities, too.”

While all that may be true, Sutter was not signed to play the wing; he was brought in to play center, specifically on the second line. He finished the preseason with zero points in five games. And as mentioned, he’ll start the season on the wing, not his natural position.

Meanwhile, youngsters Bo Horvat, 20, and Jared McCann, 19, had outstanding camps and are expected to start the regular season (tonight in Calgary) centering the second and third lines, respectively.

Though Sutter did finish the preseason with 12 shots on goal, up there with the most on the Canucks, it’s fair to say he did not look like a “foundation” player.

“I haven’t seen him play his best,” Desjardins said last week. “I see a guy who’s big and a good skater and who understands the game real well, but just hasn’t got that involved.”

Now, we are only talking about the preseason here. New players often take time to get comfortable. Perhaps playing with the Sedins can provide Sutter with some confidence.

“I know he’ll be there and I totally believe that,” said Desjardins.

But it hasn’t been the best start, and if it wasn’t for the encouraging play of the youngsters, it would be a far bigger story in Vancouver.

Related: Canucks roll the dice on rookies, waive Vey and Corrado