Vancouver Canucks v Colorado Avalanche

Avs to make O’Brien a healthy scratch — again

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Colorado coach Joe Sacco has told the Denver Post that defenseman Shane O’Brien would be a healthy scratch for the third consecutive game when the Avs take on Columbus Thursday night in Denver.

O’Brien, 29, hasn’t touched the ice this season, a strange development considering the Avs made him one of their biggest free-agent priorities this summer, inking O’Brien to a three-year, $6 million deal prior to him hitting the open market.

According to Mike Chambers of the Post, O’Brien “does not appear out of shape physically,” and is saying all the right things as he tries to get back in the lineup.

“Obviously, the coaching staff feels like I don’t give the team the best chance to win right now. It’s never fun,” O’Brien explained. “All you can do is continue to work hard, wait for your chance to get back in there, and when you do, you have to play well.”

Sacco has gone with the same six-man defensive rotation in both games this year: Erik Johnson, Ryan Wilson, Ryan O’Byrne, Jan Hejda, Greg Zanon and Tyson Barrie.

That’s left O’Brien in the press box with fellow defenseman Matt Hunwick — but, on Thursday, Hunwik will make his season debut against the Jackets.

Given O’Brien’s notorious party-boy reputation (see here), it’s easy to speculate why things have gone they way they have in Colorado.

But to say he’s reverted to his old ways might not be accurate — last November, he was profiled in a glowing Post article about his maturation into the “ultimate Avs teammate” that included the following from Sacco:

“He’s been a real nice addition to our lineup. He plays hard and plays within himself,” Sacco said. “Shane’s a little bit older now (28), a little bit wiser. I had a good talk with him at the start of the year, and he just wants to play hockey now. Every player at the start of their career probably does something they wish they could take back. I don’t even know all the stuff that happened there, but you hear stuff. He’s been great here, and I see no issues as far as that side.”

It’s a situation worth monitoring moving forward. After Thursday’s game, the Avs head out on a four-game road trip that includes a stop in O’Brien’s old stomping ground — Vancouver — on Jan. 30.

Video: Canucks escape Arizona with another win for the moms

at Pepsi Center on February 9, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.
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With their mothers traveling on the road trip — Matt Bartkowski‘s mom, Beth, has become a cult hero in Vancouver after another priceless media interview — the Canucks took back-to-back wins, moving them right back into the thick of the playoff fight in the Western Conference.

After beating the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday, the Canucks held on for the 2-1 victory in Arizona on Wednesday, despite being without Brandon Sutter (broken jaw), Alex Edler (broken fibula) and Derek Dorsett, who was scratched from the lineup due to illness, as per Sportsnet’s Dan Murphy.

It was only a few days ago, following a home loss to the Calgary Flames, that it felt like the Canucks’ playoff hopes were essentially dashed. They fielded their healthiest lineup in months and couldn’t score and couldn’t win.

Two quick wins later, they’re two points out of a Wild Card spot in the West, despite getting outshot in Arizona.

Up by a goal in the third period, defenseman Alex Biega played the hero, pulling the puck out of the crease after it got by Ryan Miller on a backhand shot from Kyle Chipchura, maintaining Vancouver’s lead.

Phaneuf burned on Zetterberg game-winner in Sens debut

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A day after getting traded out of Toronto, Dion Phaneuf made his Ottawa Senators debut.

It ended with a 3-1 road loss for the Senators, and Phaneuf getting burned by Henrik Zetterberg on the eventual game winner early in the third period.

Zetterberg picked up the puck near the Ottawa blue line, beat Phaneuf to the outside, slipped the puck under the stick of the Sens’ newest blue liner and quickly roofed his shot on Craig Anderson.

“He made a real good play and you’ve got to give credit when credit is due,” Phaneuf told the Ottawa Sun.

“I put my stick there, he put (the puck) under and he made a good shot. I’ve got to have a better stick in that situation, but you’ve got to give him credit for that play.”

Phaneuf finished the night with a minus-one rating and two hits in almost 22 minutes of ice time, putting him second among Sens defensemen in that category behind Erik Karlsson, who played a whopping 33:30.

Phaneuf drilled Red Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser with a hard slap shot early in the third period.

DeKeyser played one more shift — all of 10 seconds — before exiting the game.

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.”