Chris Higgins, Dennis Seidenberg

Canucks “College Line” bringing American flavor to Canada’s Stanley Cup hopefuls

The Vancouver Canucks run into the Stanley Cup finals and their 2-0 series lead has given fans on the Pacific coast of Canada plenty of reasons to get excited. When you’re two wins away from winning your first Stanley Cup in team history it gives the fans a reason to be happy. For Canada it would be their first Stanley Cup since the Canadiens won it in 1993 and while that brings a point of pride for Canadian hockey if that happens, there’s one line the Canucks are rolling out there that has it’s basis in the United States.

Vancouver’s second line that features Ryan Kesler at center, Mason Raymond on the right wing, and Chris Higgins on the left wing has something in common: They all got their jump on the NHL by playing college hockey. Kesler played one season at Ohio State, Higgins played for two seasons at Yale University, and Raymond played for two years at Minnesota-Duluth. Those college roots aren’t lost on Higgins.

“It’s nice. I think it’s three guys that enjoy the work part of the game. To play with two players like that makes it easier on yourself to blend in with their style,” Higgins said.

That brand of style is a mix of scoring ability, physical play, defensive toughness, and speed. Raymond is one of the fastest skaters on the Canucks roster while Kesler’s two-way play and scoring ability have made him a Conn Smythe Trophy favorite in these playoffs. As for how it is to ride shotgun with Kesler, Higgins says it’s not too bad.

“It’s pretty easy. You know the guy is going to be working every night, same thing with Raymond. You gotta make sure you’re ready to play because those guys are always ready to play. It’s been a pleasure playing with those guys.”

In these playoffs, the “College Line” has done some great work in giving the Canucks a go-to second line that can produce. While Kesler does the bulk of the heavy lifting there with his defensive work, faceoff wins, and goal scoring ability. Kesler’s 19 points in the playoffs is one of the top marks overall. Higgins and Raymond each have countered with eight points of their own with Higgins scoring four goals and Raymond with two. Getting 35 points from a line in the playoffs is a pretty good deal.

With the three guys all hailing from different schools and different conferences (Yale in the ECAC, Ohio State in the CCHA, and UMD in the WCHA) is there any kind of competition or chirping about who’s school or conference is better? Higgins laughs it off.

“No, no… No inter-conference chirping there. I think we’re all happy to be American,” Higgins says. Clearly their line chemistry is so good that Higgins forgot that Mason Raymond is from Alberta, Canada.

With Games 3 and 4 taking place in the home of college hockey in Boston where Boston College and Boston University have won national championships in recent years, they’ll need to bring that college flavor in a big way starting tonight.

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.”

Report: Coyotes shut down Vitale (concussion) for the season

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Joe Vitale will not play again this season.

The Arizona Coyotes have shut Vitale down for the remainder of the 2015-16 campaign due to “concussion-related issues,” according to a report from Sarah McLellan of azcentral sports on Wednesday.

Vitale, a 30-year-old veteran center, appeared in only one game for the Coyotes this season. That was back on Oct. 17, when he suffered a concussion and broken orbital bone in a fight with Kevan Miller of the Boston Bruins.