Alex Burrows, Pekka Rinne

Western playoff picture stays murky: Canucks clinch West; Yotes hurt Stars chances

Western Conference playoff race

z – 1. Vancouver – 111 pts
2. Detroit – 98 pts
3. San Jose – 97 pts
4. Phoenix – 95 pts
5. Los Angeles – 94 pts
6. Nashville – 92 pts
7. Anaheim – 91 pts
8. Chicago – 90 pts
9. Dallas – 87 pts
10. Calgary – 87 pts

z – clinched conference title
y – clinched division title
x – clinched playoff spot

Vancouver 3 – Nashville 1

It started off sketchy for Vancouver when Mike Fisher scored in the second period to give the Preds a 1-0 lead, but once the third rolled around, Luongo did his thing (16 saves) while Alex Burrows scored two goals and Aaron Rome added a third to give Vancouver the win and home ice throughout the Western Conference playoffs. For Nashville, the loss is tough because they had a chance to slide up the West standings and inch a little closer to Detroit. Instead, they stay in neutral while the Canucks stay on fire having won nine of their last ten games. They just keep winning in spite of injuries and that just frightens us.

Phoenix 2 – Dallas 1 (F/SO)

Is it too late to start an Ilya Bryzgalov for Vezina campaign? The Coyotes goaltender stopped 44 shots tonight while leading his team into the shootout where he was victimized by the same guy that got him in regulation, Jamie Benn, but Radim Vrbata and Ray Whitney would score on Kari Lehtonen (26 saves) in the skills competition to give Phoenix the win. While the Stars got a point, they’re still on the outside of the playoff picture. At the very least they’ve got the tiebreaker with Calgary for the time being. For the Coyotes, they move back to two point behind the Sharks and stay ahead of the Kings in the Pacific Division.

Los Angeles 2 – Edmonton 0

Game one without Anze Kopitar went well for L.A. and it was captain Dustin Brown who led the way with two goals while Trevor Lewis added two assists. Jonathan Bernier earned his third shutout of the year stopping 32 shots and getting the win for the Kings. While getting the win without Kopitar is great, let’s see what the Kings can do against Vancouver on Thursday before we go declaring how OK they’ll be without their top scorer. So no, we won’t be crowning the Kings just yet. (Sorry, we had to do it)

Boston 3 – Chicago 0

Remember all the momentum the Blackhawks earned after their overtime win over Detroit yesterday? Yeah… So much for that. The Blackhawks were stoned by Tim Thomas and his 32 saves as he earned his ninth shutout of the year.  Zdeno Chara, Johnny Boychuk, and Nathan Horton each had goals for the Bruins as they improved their own standing in the Eastern Conference race. For Chicago, failing to add any points helps keep Dallas and Calgary in the race for the playoffs. We’re sure at least Dallas is thankful for that since they can’t get out of their own way lately.

Braun out with upper-body injury; Zubrus to make Sharks debut

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The San Jose Sharks will be missing a top-4 defenseman tonight when they host the defending champs from Chicago.

Justin Braun has an upper-body injury. His status is considered day-to-day.

“Brauny has been one of our unsung heroes here through the first quarter of the season,” coach Peter DeBoer told CSN Bay Area. “He’s played some outstanding hockey. So, we’re going to miss him, but it’s a great opportunity for Mueller and Tennyson and one of these guys to establish themselves. It’s a great opportunity for us to reward Dillon for how well he’s played.”

Against the Blackhawks, Brenden Dillon will take Braun’s spot on the top pairing alongside Marc-Edouard Vlasic; Paul Martin and Brent Burns will stay together on the second pairing; and 20-year-old Mirco Mueller will skate with Matt Tennyson.

Mueller has played just four games for the Sharks this season. In his last game, Thursday in Philadelphia, he received only 9:13 of ice time.

Also tonight, new Shark forward Dainius Zubrus is expected to debut on the fourth line.

Related: Sharks sign Zubrus, because DeBoer

Johansen calls trade rumblings ‘weird,’ says relationship with Torts is ‘great’

Ryan Johansen
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One day after reports surfaced of Ryan Johansen being at the center of trade talks, all parties involved from Columbus did what they’re supposed to do — downplay the situation.

You can read the denials in full over at the Dispatch, but here’s the gist:

— Johansen said the rumors were “weird” and that he’s “never seen it before.” He also said there were no issues between him and head coach John Tortorella, calling the relationship “great.”

— GM Jarmo Kekalainen wouldn’t address the report, nor would Johansen’s agent, Kurt Overhardt.

— Johansen added he hasn’t spoken to any of Columbus’ management about the trade rumblings.

So there’s that. What’s next?

At this stage of the game, it’s hard not to think about another Overhardt client, Kyle Turris.

Turris, you’ll recall, spent four (mostly) stormy years with the Coyotes before his trade out to Ottawa was orchestrated. Turris eventually told GM Don Maloney “this is not going to work out” with the club, and he was gone.

So, consider the similarities now:

— Turris was 22 at the time of the trade, with four years and 137 games under his belt.

— Johansen is 23, with five years and 291 games.

— Both had contentious contract holdouts with their respective clubs.

— Both are Overhardt guys.

— The Turris trade happened after the Coyotes went from Wayne Gretzky to Dave Tippett as head coach.

— Johansen is already on his third head coach (Scott Arniel, Todd Richards, Tortorella).

For now, these are all coincidences (or a forced narrative, depending what you think of the author).

And, of course, the one big — big — difference between the two is that, at the time of his trade, Turris wasn’t as good or established a player as Johansen currently is. Therefore, logic suggests any Johansen trade would be a lot more blockbuster-y and, therefore, probably more complex.

And as we know, complex deals aren’t easy to pull off.

Flyers’ Gagner to miss another week after Malone hit

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The nasty blow Sam Gagner took in Monday’s game against Carolina will keep him on the shelf for a little bit.

On Wednesday, Flyers GM Ron Hextall said the club expected Gagner to be out around a week with injuries suffered on the hit, delivered by ‘Canes forward Brad Malone (per the Inquirer).

Gagner suffered a fairly significant facial laceration, which forced him from the game entirely. He didn’t practice on Tuesday and, in a corresponding move, the Flyers called up Colin McDonald from the AHL to fill Gagner’s spot on the roster.

This is the second facial injury Gagner’s suffered in recent years. He’d previously had his jaw broken by an errant Zack Kassian high stick, while he was with the Oilers and Kassian the Canucks.

Prior to getting hurt, Gagner had two goals and five points in 18 games, averaging just under 12 minutes per night.

‘It’s absolutely not true’ — Lemieux denies report of ‘big falling out’ with Crosby

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 5:  Sidney Crosby #87 and Mario Lemieux #66 of the Pittsburgh Penguins share a few words during a break in action against the New Jersey Devils in their NHL opening night game at the Continental Airlines Arena on October 5, 2005 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  The Devils won 5-1. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Well, that didn’t take long.

Just hours after Matthew Barnaby went on the radio and said he’d heard that Sidney Crosby and Mario Lemieux had had a “big falling out,” Lemieux came out and denied it.

“It’s absolutely not true,” said Lemieux, per the club’s Twitter account. “It’s silly.”

Today marked the second time in less than two weeks that the Penguins have been forced do some damage control.

Last week, the Penguins insisted that they weren’t actually “mad at each other,” as Evgeni Malkin had put it after a bad loss to New Jersey.

“He did not mean we are mad at each other,” said Crosby. “He meant we are frustrated.”