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Wild pass Panthers, top Hockey’s Future prospect rankings

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While the Florida Panthers’ farm system put up a good fight coming in at No. 2, Hockey’s Future placed the Minnesota Wild’s promising prospects first overall in its fall team rankings on Dec. 7.

Potential Wild stars of the future such as Mikael Granlund and Jonas Brodin made the difference in what the site called a very tight race; the Panthers had been at the top of the site’s heap for quite some time.

Hockey’s Future listed Minnesota’s strengths:

The Minnesota Wild have spent several years rebuilding their system and now boast one of the deepest, most talented group of prospects in the NHL. Leading their system is potential star Mikael Granlund. Behind Granlund there are a multitude of talented, offensively minded forwards that includes Charlie Coyle, Zack Phillips, and Jason Zucker. They also have a very talented group of two-way forwards that includes Johan Larsson, Brett Bulmer, and Erik Haula. Leading the defense are puck-moving defensemen Jonas Brodin and Mathew Dumba. The Wild also have very good goaltending prospects in Matt Hackett and Darcy Kuemper.

The Edmonton Oilers’ system came in close at third, which shouldn’t be surprising considering the team’s slew of recent high draft picks – particularly nabbing the No. 1 pick in the last three drafts.

Here is a list of the remaining top 10 teams (in order): the Ottawa Senators, St. Louis Blues, New York Islanders, Tampa Bay Lightning, Montreal Canadiens, Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings.

On the other hand, here are the bottom five farm systems according to Hockey’s Future:

26. Vancouver Canucks
27. New Jersey Devils
28. Colorado Avalanche
29. Winnipeg Jets
30. Philadelphia Flyers

The popular prospect site explains the Flyers’ struggles by citing the system’s lack of top-four defensemen, offensive upside among forwards and quality goaltending.

Time will tell if teams like the Wild, Panthers and Oilers can develop their prospects and lower-ranked organizations can overcame their (perceived) deficiencies.

(H/T to the Dallas Morning News’ Mike Heika.)

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.

Sens announce Frattin, acquired in Phaneuf deal, will stick with AHL Marlies

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Matt Frattin was traded by the Leafs to Ottawa yesterday as part of the Dion Phaneuf blockbuster.

But for now, he’s staying in Toronto.

On Wednesday, Sens GM Bryan Murray announced that Frattin will remain with the Leafs’ AHL affiliate — the Toronto Marlies — on loan, but will be available for selection should Ottawa require his services down the road.

Frattin, 28, has spent all of this season with the Marlies, scoring nine goals and 22 points in 47 games. His last NHL appearance came during the ’14-15 campaign, with the Leafs.

Prior to that, the former North Dakota standout had spent time in Los Angeles and Columbus.