Shane Doan, Martin Hanzal

Coyotes boot Wild out of West’s top eight

Thursday’s busy night of action shuffled things up in both conferences.* The West’s bubble situation was even more active than the East’s today, so to keep you up to date, let’s look at what happened in order of each team’s position as of this very moment.

7. Los Angeles Kings: 62 points in 55 games (26 wins)

The Kings remain in sixth place but lost a 3-1 game to the Florida Panthers and face a harrowing stretch run schedule. It might seem like they’re above the fray, but it turns out that might be a naive assumption.

8. Phoenix Coyotes: 60 points in 55 games (26 wins)

The Phoenix Coyotes continue to heat up with a 2-1 overtime victory against the Calgary Flames, which amounted to a battle for a temporary hold on the West’s eighth seed. The ‘Yotes are currently on a four-game winning streak.

9. Dallas Stars: 58 points in 53 games (28 wins)

The Stars bested the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-2 to put themselves in a great position. They aren’t in the top eight right now but they hold edges against the two teams ahead of them when it comes to games in hand (two more) and wins (two more as well). The one mark against the Stars is that they’ve played three more home contests than road ones.

10. Minnesota Wild: 58 points in 54 games (25 wins)

The Wild began Thursday in eighth place but a 5-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks made them take quite the tumble. They’ve lost three consecutive games and hold a 3-5-2 record in their last 10, so things are just getting ugly right now. The one silver lining is pretty promising, though: the strong home team has 17 games left in Minnesota vs. just 11 contests remaining on the road.

11. Calgary Flames: 58 points in 55 games (25 wins)

The Flames could’ve been in eighth place if they notched a win against Phoenix. Instead, Calgary watched its stock drop all the way to 11th, which shows just how close this race is right now. They don’t really hold any significant advantages over the other bubble teams, though, so they’ll just need to play great hockey – or cut bait.

Inactive: 12. Colorado Avalanche: 57 points in 55 games (27 wins)

The Avs aren’t totally out of the picture, especially with a solid 27 wins. Still, they’ll need to make up some ground to top the other contenders for one of the final two spots.

* – Click here to read about how the Southeast Division shuffles made a significant impact on the East’s picture.

Oilers go captain-less, name four alternates instead

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Edmonton’s made a fairly significant shift in its leadership group.

The big news is the Oilers won’t have a captain this season, as Andrew Ference will relinquish the “C” he’s worn for the last two years.

Ference will, however, remain part of the group and wear an “A” as part of a four-man alternate captain collective, one that also includes Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall.

The news of Ference being removed as captain doesn’t come as a huge surprise. The veteran d-man is a well-respected leader, but isn’t expected to be in the lineup every night this season.

The decision to go without a captain, though, is something of a surprise, especially given what new head coach Todd McLellan endured during his final season in San Jose.

The Sharks’ captaincy issue — stripping Joe Thornton, then going with four rotating alternates — was an ongoing problem, something that players, coaches and GM Doug Wilson had to repeatedly address until it blew up in spectacular fashion.

That said, the circumstances in Edmonton are quite different.

It’s believed the club’s intentionally keeping the captaincy vacant, on the assumption that Connor McDavid will evolve into a superstar and the club’s unquestioned leader.

Finally, McLellan noted that with Eberle currently sidelined, a fifth Oiler would be added to the leadership group — veteran forward Matt Hendricks, who will serve as a temporary alternate.

Brandon Sutter didn’t have the greatest preseason

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When Brandon Sutter was acquired by the Vancouver Canucks, GM Jim Benning called the 26-year-old a “foundation piece for our group going forward.”

Sutter was quickly signed to a five-year extension worth almost $22 million, more evidence of how highly management thought of the player.

Fast forward to yesterday, when Benning was asked the following question:

“What does it say that you made the trade for Sutter, you called him a ‘foundation’ player, and it took him until the final night of the preseason to find a spot (with the Sedins) on the wing, which isn’t his natural position?”

Here was Benning’s response:

“Well, [head coach Willie Desjardins] wants to try that out, he thinks that’s going to be a good fit. At various times, the Sedins played with wingers with speed, with [Ryan Kesler], who could get in on the forecheck and had a good shot. Sutter brings some of those qualities, too.”

While all that may be true, Sutter was not signed to play the wing; he was brought in to play center, specifically on the second line. He finished the preseason with zero points in five games. And as mentioned, he’ll start the season on the wing, not his natural position.

Meanwhile, youngsters Bo Horvat, 20, and Jared McCann, 19, had outstanding camps and are expected to start the regular season (tonight in Calgary) centering the second and third lines, respectively.

Though Sutter did finish the preseason with 12 shots on goal, up there with the most on the Canucks, it’s fair to say he did not look like a “foundation” player.

“I haven’t seen him play his best,” Desjardins said last week. “I see a guy who’s big and a good skater and who understands the game real well, but just hasn’t got that involved.”

Now, we are only talking about the preseason here. New players often take time to get comfortable. Perhaps playing with the Sedins can provide Sutter with some confidence.

“I know he’ll be there and I totally believe that,” said Desjardins.

But it hasn’t been the best start, and if it wasn’t for the encouraging play of the youngsters, it would be a far bigger story in Vancouver.

Related: Canucks roll the dice on rookies, waive Vey and Corrado