Northwest Division Watch (February 12)

With the All-Star break over, it’s time for the NHL playoff races to intensify. Every week, we’ll provide updates for each division’s outlook. The biggest contenders and/or closest races will receive the greatest amount of attention.

Bold = playoff contender; Italics = likely lottery fodder.

Northwest Division outlook (February 12-18)

1. Vancouver Canucks (35-11-9 for 79 pts; 55 Games Played)

Current streak: One loss.

Week ahead: Home vs. Calgary (Saturday), @ St. Louis (Monday), @ Minnesota (Tuesday), @Nashville (Thursday).

Thoughts: The Canucks’ real race is with the Philadelphia Flyers, at least right now.

2. Calgary Flames (28-21-8 for 64 pts; 57 GP)

Current streak: One loss.

Week ahead: @ Vancouver (Sat), @ Colorado (Mon), home vs. Dallas (Wed).

Thoughts: It’s still a bit weird to see the Flames all the way up to second place in the Northwest Division, isn’t it? They play against two division leaders and one division rival spiraling down the drain in Colorado this week.

3. Minnesota Wild (29-20-5 for 63 pts; 54 GP)

Current streak: Two wins.

Week ahead: Home vs. St. Louis (Sat), Home vs. Vancouver (Tues) @ Chicago (Wed), home vs. Anaheim (Fri).

Thoughts: The Wild are quietly one of the hottest teams in the NHL. Their upcoming schedule is challenging as always, but they play three of the four games in Minnesota so their chances of having a good week are solid.

4. Colorado Avalanche (25-24-6 for 56 pts; 55 GP)

Current streak: Six game losing streak.

Week ahead: @Nashville (Sat), home vs. Calgary (Mon), home vs. Pittsburgh (Wed).

Thoughts: Obviously, the Avs need to get their acts together. Their next two games are tough, but with the Penguins reeling, this might be a good chance to take 5-6 points from those three games.

5. Edmonton Oilers (16-30-8 for 40 pts; 54 pts)

Current streak: One loss.

Week ahead: Four home games – vs. Ottawa (Sat), Anaheim (Sun), Dallas (Tues), Montreal (Thurs).

Thoughts: Aside from their blooper bowl game against the Senators, the Oilers have a great chance to play the spoiler role this week. They lost to Chicago 4-1 to begin this six-game homestand.

Canucks name new head coach of AHL affiliate

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The Vancouver Canucks have finally settled on a head coach for their AHL affiliate.

Today, Trent Cull was named new bench boss of the Utica Comets.

Cull replaces Travis Green, the new head coach of the Canucks.

“Trent is a passionate head coach with significant AHL experience,” Canucks GM Jim Benning said in a release. “He understands the development path of a young player, including the challenges they face, and has been a part of many successful organizations. Trent is a teacher with a positive, energetic work ethic. We’re excited to welcome him and his family to our organization.”

The past four seasons, Cull has been an assistant coach for AHL Syracuse. The Crunch made it all the way to the 2017 Calder Cup Final, where they lost to Grand Rapids.

Cull, 43, has never been a head coach in the AHL, though he did hold that role for three years with the OHL’s Sudbury Wolves from 2010-13.

It’s believed the Canucks’ first choice for the Utica job was Rocky Thompson. However, Thompson chose instead to become head coach of Vegas’ AHL affiliate in Chicago.

Construction worker dies after fall at Detroit arena

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DETROIT (AP) A worker has died after falling 75 feet at the Little Caesars Arena worksite north of downtown Detroit.

Deputy Detroit Fire Commissioner David Fornell says the 46-year-old man was in cardiac arrest when paramedics arrived about 8 a.m. Wednesday.

Other workers had started cardiopulmonary resuscitation which first responders continued. The man was taken to a Detroit hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Fornell says officials were told the man was an electrical worker and may have fallen from a catwalk. He says the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration likely will investigate.

The arena will be home to the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings and the NBA’s Pistons. It is scheduled to open this fall.

More on the story from the Detroit Free Press

Habs extend De La Rose — one year, $725,000

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Montreal secured some forward depth on Wednesday, agreeing to terms with Jacob De La Rose.

De La Rose, 22, was taken 34th overall at the 2013 draft and has appeared in 64 games for Montreal over the last three seasons. He had a nice debut for the club in ’14-15 — appearing in 33 regular-season contests, and 12 playoff games — but has since spent the majority of his time in AHL St. John’s.

That might not be the case moving forward, however.

De La Rose’s deal is worth $725,000 (per TSN) and, importantly, is of the one-way variety. There could be more opportunities at forward next season. Montreal has already said it’ll pass on bringing back UFAs Brian Flynn and Dwight King, and it’s unclear if the club will get a deal done with Alexander Radulov.

It’s also unclear what GM Marc Bergevin plans to do with Alex Galchenyuk, who’s been the subject of numerous trade rumors.

Even after bad season in Buffalo, Kulikov generating strong interest as UFA

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Dmitry Kulikov had a bad season in Buffalo. There’s no debating that.

Not only did the defenseman struggle statistically, finishing minus-26 with just two goals and three assists, he also had trouble staying healthy, appearing in just 47 games for the Sabres.

But despite all that, Kulikov seems to be generating plenty of interest as an unrestricted free agent. Presumably, the hope among his many suitors is that he can bounce back, so long as he’s put in a better situation.

Kulikov is still just 26. And before he was traded to Buffalo a year ago, he’d had a number of respectable seasons with the Florida Panthers.

It’s why the Sabres were so happy to get him.

“He’s a good player,” then-GM Tim Murray said last June, per NHL.com. “I like guys that are honest, I like guys that are hard to play against, I certainly like guys that can make a tape-to-tape pass, and with our forwards, I think if he can make a tape-to-tape pass, good things are going to happen in transition with the skill and speed we already have here, so he’s just a great fit.”

Of course, it wasn’t a great fit, and Murray is no longer the GM.

As for Kulikov, there’s “about a dozen” interested teams, according to his agent. Ottawa and Winnipeg are believed to be among them.