Henrik Sedin, Kevin Bieksa, Christian Ehrhoff, Alex Burrows, Daniel Sedin

Vancouver Canucks still looking to improve team this offseason: “There is money to be spent”

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What’s the old saying? The rich only get richer? Under just about every measure of a team, the Vancouver Canucks are one of the richest teams out there these days. They won the Presidents’ Trophy as the best team in the regular season, won the Northwest Division by 23 point and were within a single game of their first Stanley Cup in their 40-year franchise history last season. Even though the season is still two months away, they’re already the favorites to win next year’s Cup.

This just in: they’re pretty good.

Apparently they’re not good enough though. There are reports out of Vancouver that the organization is still looking to make another move to help strengthen their team next season. From Jason Botchford of the Vancouver Province:

“‘We’re still looking at areas to improve the hockey team,’ assistant GM Laurence Gilman admitted. ‘There is money to be spent.’

The Canucks do have some flexibility with cap space — they vow to spend to the limit — a glut of borderline second liners and a backup goalie who is ready to be a starter for another team. So, they’re not against making some moves.”

A quick look at the Canucks salary cap situation after the Jannik Hansen signing shows they have 23 roster player signed for the 2011-12 season for $61.8 million (per Capgeek.com); they have just over $2.5 million to play with next season. If Cody Hodgson were to make the team, his $1.6 million cap hit would chew away at their available cap space. Same goes for 21-year-old defenseman Chris Tanev and his $900,000 cap hit. But assuming those players aren’t able to make the team (and judging by the current roster, they probably won’t), the Canucks still have money to play with.

Of course, there could be plenty more cap space if the Canucks are looking to make a trade instead of a free agent signing. If they were able to part ways with Keith Ballard’s $4.2 million cap hit, the city of Vancouver may riot in celebration they’d be able to fit just about any player they covet under the salary cap. The Canucks would be able to fit a scorer to help Ryan Kesler on the second line if they wanted a forward. They’d be able to find another defenseman to replace the departed Christian Ehrhoff.

Again, this is a team that dominated play during the regular season last year. Not only did they dominate with 117 points (10 points better than the 2nd place Caps), but scored the most goals in the league and allowed the fewest. They were the best team on the power play and up until the last week of the season, they were the best team on the penalty kill. They were a well-rounded, well-oiled machine last year.

The rest of the Western Conference has been spending the offseason trying to figure out how they were going to match the Canucks of a year ago. Now they can worry about the Canucks trying to make themselves even better than they were last year. Good luck with that.

Video: Tempers flare between Oilers and Predators, as Lucic and McLeod drop the gloves

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Things got feisty between the Edmonton Oilers and Nashville Predators on Friday.

It started in the second period after P.K. Subban took an elbow from Matt Hendricks along the end boards. Hendricks was immediately grabbed by Anthony Bitetto. Nothing really materialized from that, however the main event broke out between Milan Lucic and Nashville newcomer Cody McLeod.

Lucic landed some pretty heavy punches before the two players fell to the ice.

Video: Cam Ward loses it on Hornqvist, Hurricanes suffer ’embarrassing’ loss to Penguins

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Cam Ward had enough.

The Carolina Hurricanes goalie seemed particularly ticked off with Patric Hornqvist on Friday, twice taking out his frustrations in front of the net on the Pittsburgh Penguins forward.

Earlier in the game, Ward delivered a slash to the back of Hornqvist’s leg. In the third period, with the Hurricanes down five goals — that should give you an indication of what kind of night this was for Carolina — Ward snapped, delivering a punch with the blocker to Hornqvist after he slid into the Hurricanes puck stopper a split second after Evgeni Malkin jammed the puck in for a goal.

The final score? A 7-1 disaster of a loss to the Penguins, highlighted by Pittsburgh’s second-period offensive outburst. Ward played the entire game, allowing seven goals on 41 shots.

Carolina’s night also included star forward Jeff Skinner getting benched for the third period, after he took a pair of minor penalties — embellishment and unsportsmanlike conduct — in the second period.

“That’s pretty embarrassing. You don’t want to suffer a loss like that, especially in your home building,” Skinner told reporters.

The Hurricanes entered this game with a chance to jump into a wild card spot in the East.

Last week, the Hurricanes won four in a row, including a victory over Columbus, and continued their steady rise into the playoff hunt in the East. This week? It’s included losses to the Blue Jackets and Penguins.

The Hurricanes won’t have much time to think about this one. They travel to Columbus for a game Saturday evening.

With Claude Julien on the hot seat, Bruins lose late heartbreaker to Blackhawks

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The Boston Bruins have now lost three in a row, a losing streak that coincides with reports circulating that head coach Claude Julien’s job security is in jeopardy.

The bad news just keeps piling up for the Bruins: They’ve been shut out twice this week, as scoring continues to be an issue in Boston. They’re 22nd in the league in that category.

On Friday, the Bruins had their chances and once again held the edge in puck possession against the Chicago Blackhawks, finishing the game with 19 more shot attempts then the visitors, per hockeystats.ca.

But they couldn’t beat Scott Darling, who made 30 saves, and the real dagger came late in the third period when Marian Hossa scored off the rush with just over one minute remaining in regulation. Boston couldn’t even salvage a point out of this contest, losing 1-0.

The Bruins were all over the Blackhawks in the first period. They held a wide edge in shots on goal, but the Blackhawks were able to escape on the strength of some solid goaltending. They just hung around, and were able to break through in the third period.

The Bruins are still in a playoff position in the Atlantic Division. They are the top puck possession team in the league (although they have the second lowest shooting percentage at five-on-five) and Julien has had plenty of success behind that bench, helping guide the organization to a Stanley Cup championship in 2011 and a run to the Final in the lockout shortened campaign.

It would seem unfair to pin this roster’s shortcomings on the coach, especially given the offseason plans initially set out by Bruins management.

Though this loss likely puts Claude Julien Watch on high alert.

Sabres’ McCabe suffers shoulder injury, will not return versus Red Wings

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The Buffalo Sabres will be down a defenseman for the remainder of Friday’s game against the Detroit Red Wings.

Jake McCabe has left the game due to a shoulder injury suffered during the first period and will not return, the club stated during the second period.

Signed to a three-year, $4.8 million contract extension last summer, the 23-year-old McCabe has one goal and 10 points in 44 games this season for Buffalo

More recently, McCabe drew the immediate ire of the Winnipeg Jets after he delivered an open-ice hit on rookie Patrik Laine, who suffered a concussion on the play.