Brian Burke

Leafs GM Brian Burke hopes to package picks to earn a higher 2011 first rounder

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The NHL’s 2011 Draft Combine completed this week, providing enjoyable speculation for fans of the 28 franchises that aren’t playing NHL games anymore. We already took a look at some of the workout warriors from the Combine’s tests, but it’s likely that a few other stories might filter through.

You don’t usually have to pry and prod to get a story out of Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke. His law school background and robust sense of self-worth make him one of the most fascinating figures in the sport, let alone one of the most interesting general managers.

Unfortunately, for all his one-liners and amusing scowls, Burke hasn’t had much success rebuilding the Maple Leafs into a playoff team. One of his most criticized moves involved trading a handful of picks – including one that ended up being Tyler Seguin’s No. 2 pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft – for mercurial scorer Phil Kessel.

That move robbed Leafs fans of a big-time prospect to shower with excessive praise and scrutiny, so the fan base is probably hungry for a new savior. Burke is in a better position in 2011 than 2010 with two first round draft picks and a second rounder to boot, but he might want to swing for a home run rather than three hits. In fact, he said basically that much, indicating that he will try to package one of his first round picks with his second round pick to move up in the first round.

It might be a tough sell because the Leafs’ picks are in the lower end of the first round. They’ll get the 25th pick from the Philadelphia Flyers thanks to the Kris Versteeg trade and either the 29th or 30th pick depending upon the Boston Bruins’ results in the 2011 Stanley Cup finals. That pick came from the Tomas Kaberle trade and might slightly heal the wounds of that Kessel trade, although the Kessel deal will rear its ugly head again when the Bruins receive the ninth pick in ’11.

In other words, Burke will try to move up in the first round by combining either the 25th or 29/30th pick with the team’s 39th pick. It’s quite possible that it might come down to making a trade on the draft floor, especially if a team in the teens doesn’t like what they’re seeing as the events transpire.

Either way, there’s an excellent chance that Burke will entertain us around June 24. Then again, there wouldn’t be anything unusual about that.

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.”