Mikael Samuelsson and Alex Edler are among Canucks players hoping to get healthy for next season

There are a lot of drawbacks to coming painfully close to winning the Stanley Cup, but the lingering effects of the literal pain that comes with a deep playoff run might be one of the most underrated issues. The Vancouver Canucks were a banged up team late in the 2011 playoffs and the largely unchanged club will have to come back from injuries in what Ian MacIntyre points out is the shortest off-season in franchise history.

While the team might need to adjust to life without Ryan Kesler for training camp and perhaps the beginning of the regular season, other players hope to shake off their own ailments. MacIntyre caught up with Mikael Samuelsson, Marco Sturm and Alex Edler, the only veterans of eight Canucks skaters participating in an informal skating session as they try to shake off injuries. MacIntyre notes that almost double the number of veterans get things started early during most summers when there is a longer layoff.

Samuelsson saw his playoff run cut short once he was forced to undergo abdominal surgery, but he seemed optimistic about his recovery. Edler played through the pain of having two broken fingers and admitted that he’ll get them re-evaluated since they’re still causing him issues.

Canuck general manager Mike Gillis cautioned last week it would “take time” for players to get back to work.

But the late arrivals, short turnaround time and several injuries migrating from last season to this one – Edler, for example, said Monday two fingers broken in the final still haven’t fully healed and he will be re-evaluated next week – make you wonder if Stanley Cup hangovers afflict only the victorious.

Will the Canucks be behind other teams when the season starts?

“I don’t think so,” Samuelsson said. “Let’s see how we respond this year. Where I was before, guys, myself included, really wanted to get back on a winning note. I don’t think we can have less expectations this year. It’s not easy to go to the finals, but we know we’re one of seven or eight teams that is really good.

“When you feel you have a chance to do something and you have a good team, that’s when in my mind you’re eager. ‘We’re going to go to the finals again’ – that’s maybe not the right approach. You take one step at a time. Start off with a good training camp.”

The Canucks’ schedule might lend itself to some feelings of a hangover when it might just boil down to a tough start. Four of their first five games are on the road, although that’s followed by five of six in Vancouver. The toughest stretch of the early season comes in the beginning of November, though, as they play six consecutive road games against Western Conference opponents. Vancouver should be in good shape if they can be successful during that run and also survive a tracherous February schedule that starts with a four game road run and then finishes with six consecutive games away from Vancouver.

The good news is that the team hasn’t lost many players, but that also means that few players will be well-rested. There won’t be much of an injection of new blood, a problem that’s even more pronounced when you consider the injury history of newly added forward Sturm.

Then again, the Canucks have rolled with the punches from injuries and tough scheduling in recent years, so there’s reason to believe this season won’t be any different. That being said, it might be tough for this team to put together the kind of dominant regular season that they pulled off in 2010-11.

Vancouver should have bigger picture goals than producing another outstanding regular season anyway, though.

(H/T to Rotoworld.)

PHT Morning Skate: Ovechkin will be rocking incredible custom skates for Russian Heritage Night

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–With only a few weeks remaining in the regular season, we’re starting to get a better idea of who will be in and out of the playoffs. With that being said, The Hockey News put together a list of five players that could benefit from playing on another team. Devils goalie Cory Schneider is at the top of the list. Schneider’s been solid since joining New Jersey, but the team hasn’t had much success. (The Hockey News)

Erik Karlsson has always been known as an offensive defenseman, but this year, he’s made several defensive improvements to his game. The changes have made him so effective that his head coach, Guy Boucher, believes he should be in the running for a Hart Trophy. (Canadian Press)

–The Washington Capitals will be hosting a Russian Heritage Night tonight. During the pre-game warmup, Alex Ovechkin will be rocking these custom skates honoring his home land and his American home. He’ll be auctioning off the skates too. (CSN Mid-Atlantic)

–The New York Islanders trailed the Rangers 2-1 heading into the third period, but thanks to goals by Nikolay Kulemin and Andrew Ladd, they were able to come out on top. You can watch the highlights from last night’s “Battle of New York” by clicking the video at the top of the page.

–Vegas GM George McPhee chatted with Sportsnet’s Gene Principe about being able to build a team from scratch. McPhee called the experience “fantastic” and “really neat”. He also discussed his vision for the team and how he’s approaching the expansion draft. (Sportsnet)

–The Detroit Red Wings have been a model franchise for quite some time, but they’ve on the verge of going through some pretty big changes. First, Joe Louis Arena will be closing its doors and secondly, their long playoff streak will be coming to an end this season. Sports Illustrated takes a deeper look at the old barn and the third-longest playoff streak in pro sports. (Sports Illustrated)

–Many people feel like the Calder Trophy race will come down to Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine, but Bob McKenzie says there’s more than two worthy candidates because Zach Werenski has been equally good this season. But who is McKenzie leaning toward?

Ducks take control of second in Pacific after edging Oilers

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Connor McDavid was fantastic on Wednesday, but the Anaheim Ducks overcame his strong showing for a significant win in the Pacific.

McDavid scored a goal and two assists, yet Ryan Getzlaf was right there with him with three assists, helping the Ducks win 4-3.

With that, Anaheim is clearly ahead of Edmonton for second in the Pacific. The Ducks would hold home-ice over the Oilers if the playoffs began today, and better yet for them, a division title isn’t out of the question:

1. Sharks – 91 points in 73 games played
2. Ducks – 89 points in 73 GP
3. Oilers – 87 points in 73 GP
4. Flames – 86 points in 73 GP

As you can see, the Oilers aren’t exactly far ahead of the Flames for third, either.

Going forward, the Oilers have an interesting schedule: a mix of games against cellar dwellers (two apiece against the Canucks and Avalanche) plus two games apiece versus the Kings and Sharks.

The Ducks’ schedule includes two matches against the Flames, one against the Kings and one more match at Edmonton on April 1.

Long story short, the jockeying for position is far from over, but this was a pretty significant win for the Ducks.

Video: Connor McDavid shows off speed and skill (again)

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Connor McDavid‘s 26th goal of 2016-17 was a lot like many others: an impressive display of skill and speed. He didn’t blaze past the Anaheim Ducks like has against opponents on other occasions, but his rare wheels still came in handy.

Maybe more than sheer speed, this tally is a reminder that McDavid could do impressive things while losing little or no momentum. It’s one thing to have straight-line speed, but he has the hands and hockey IQ to take advantage of his swift skating.

McDavid already has two points in this one, pushing him to 84 points. He also extended his point streak to five games (three goals, six assists if he stays at one of each on Wednesday).

Islanders grab precious points by beating Rangers

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The goal posts might move from time to time – now they’re chasing the Boston Bruins more than the Toronto Maple Leafs – but the bottom line is that the New York Islanders need to get it done to make the playoffs.

They still have some climbing to do, but Wednesday represented a step in the right direction with a tough 3-2 win against the New York Rangers.

The Rangers built 1-0 and 2-1 leads in the second period as John Tavares struggled with a “hat trick” of penalties, but Tavares & Co. wouldn’t give up. They managed two power-play goals in the third (one by Nikolay Kulemin, the winner by Andrew Ladd) to turn things around for a significant win.

Anders Lee was also a big part of the win, grabbing a goal and an assist. The biggest difference-maker may very well have been Thomas Greiss, who stopped 34 of 36 shots (including all 11 in the third) as the Rangers created a lot of offense.

The Islanders now have 80 standings points, placing them two behind the Bruins for the East’s final wild card spot.

The Rangers’ hold over the first wild card seems quite secure, but they do have to worry ever so slightly about their play at home. With this defeat, they’ve now lost seven straight (0-5-2) at Madison Square Garden.