Manny Malhotra 2

Canucks make Malhotra healthy scratch for first time

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According to Jim Jamieson of the Vancouver Province, Manny Malhotra will be a healthy scratch for the first time in his Canucks career tonight when Vancouver takes on Chicago at the United Center.

Malhotra, an excellent shut-down player last season, suffered a serious eye injury a year ago and missed much of his summer training due to several surgical procedures on the eye.

He’s struggled to regain last season’s high level, but has still been good in the face-off circle. He’s fifth in the NHL in face-off winning percentage, at 58.2 per cent. On Monday in Minnesota, Malhotra was three for six, all in the defensive zone, and lost a draw to Kyle Brodziak on a Wild power play just prior to Erik Christensen’s opening goal.

Malhotra said he was fine physically. “They’re just trying different things, giving guys some looks,” he said.

There are a few ways of looking at this lineup decision:

1) It was simply Malhotra’s turn, just like it was Mason Raymond’s turn on Tuesday. Raymond was a healthy scratch in Vancouver’s 2-0 loss to Minnesota — the first time in three years he’d been a healthy scratch — after going pointless in eight games, frustrating head coach Alain Vigneault.

2) This isn’t actually Malhotra’s first healthy scratch. Malhotra was held out of the lineup last week against Columbus and Phoenix for “personal reasons”, believed to be in relation to the one-year anniversary of his eye injury.

We say ‘believed’ because Malhotra wouldn’t discuss the situation.

“There’s no need to elaborate,” he said of his absence. “Things are fine and I’m ready to get back to work. I feel good. I’m ready to go.”

It’s possible Vancouver held Malhotra out of the lineup under the guise of “personal reasons” to prevent publicly embarrassing one of its alternate captains. Of course, this conspiracy theory is ripe for hole-poking. Why would they keep from embarrassing him then, only to embarrass him a week later?

And really, how tumultuous would scratching an alternate captain be? Dale Hunter’s benched Mike Knuble a whole bunch of times, and those two seem to get along great.

Stars end Capitals’ winning streak, pass Blackhawks for West lead

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For two periods, the Dallas Stars seemed to say, “Are you sure the Washington Capitals are the best team in the NHL?”

They chased Braden Holtby and built a 4-0 lead through those first 40 minutes, and that was enough … but barely. The Stars beat the Capitals 4-3 on Saturday, which accomplished the following:

  • Dallas ended Washington’s winning streak at five games. The Stars have now won three straight.
  • This win slides the Stars ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks for first place in the highly competitive Central Division. While both teams sit at 77 standings points, Dallas holds three games in hand.
  • By passing Chicago, the Stars now lead the Western Conference as a whole.

Impressive stuff. Some might even call it a statement game, although others may hold that nail-biting ending against them (possibly arguing that the Stars’ flaws may come back to haunt them in the playoffs).

Dallas’ biggest concern likely has little to do with doubters. Instead, they must monitor the statuses of forwards Tyler Seguin and Cody Eakin.

Long story short, the Stars are red-hot, yet bigger challenges likely lie ahead.

Blackhawks fall to Ducks in OT, lose Hossa to injury

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The Chicago Blackhawks are on edge on Saturday, and it’s not because of what’s currently a close game against the Anaheim Ducks.

(Not that they’re indifferent toward a match against their opponents from last year’s conference final match, mind you.)

Instead, the Blackhawks are quite concerned about the health of Marian Hossa, who needed help off of the ice following an awkward, scary-looking crash into the boards. (Hampus Lindholm delivered the hip check that sent Hossa sprawling, in case you’re wondering.)

You can see that moment in the video above, while My Regular Face’s GIF also captures that troubling moment:

It’s too early to tell if Hossa will bounce back or miss some time from this. Stay tuned for potential updates.

Update: Joel Quenneville seems optimistic about Hossa, broadly speaking:

Ryan Getzlaf scored the overtime game-winner as the Ducks won 3-2 (OT).

Understatement: Saturday was a rough night for Panthers

Nashville Predators center Colin Wilson (33) checks Florida Panthers center Jonathan Huberdeau (11) during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
AP
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If it weren’t for Mike Yeo and the Minnesota Wild, you could argue that the Florida Panthers suffered from the worst night so far.

You can see that Saturday was unpleasant merely from looking at the scoreboard: the Nashville Predators pummeled the Panthers by an unkind score of 5-0.

The pain goes beyond that … literally so.

For one thing, Quinton Howden suffered an upper-body injury and did not return. That’s no good, but if you want to feel sick to your stomach, footage of Brandon Pirri‘s likely lower-body injury (ankle maybe?) may do the trick.

(Seriously, you may be happier if you don’t look.)

The Panthers didn’t make an announcement about Pirri one way or another, so we’ll see if he somehow avoided anything significant.

Either way, it was a night this team would like to forget.

Fractured jaw from fight sidelines Chris Stewart for 4-8 weeks

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It’s unlikely that Chris Stewart will generate another 30-goal season in the NHL, but he still might be missed by the Anaheim Ducks.

The team announced that the ornery forward is expected to miss four-to-eight weeks with a fractured jaw. If that’s the recovery window, Stewart may go into the playoffs a little rusty (if he can get in any regular season games at all).

The Ducks didn’t elaborate, but the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline believes that the injury happened during a fight with Dalton Prout of the Columbus Blue Jackets. You can see that brawl in the video above.

One bright side for Anaheim: if they believe that they need to replace what Stewart brings to the table (rugged play with a dash of offense), then at least this injury happened before the the Feb. 29 trade deadline.