Alain Vigneault

Five things the Canucks could do

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1. Get rid of Alain Vigneault

The easiest change general manager Mike Gillis could make. All he’d have to do is pull the trigger. “You’re fired.” Anyone could do that. Of course, it also means Gillis would have to find a competent replacement, and that’s less easy. Does he go with an experienced candidate like Lindy Ruff? Does he look within the organization? Or, is there a young, innovative mind out there — maybe an assistant in the NHL, or a head coach in the AHL — that can give the Canucks the fresh voice so many believe they need? Someone like Adam Oates. Because if the Capitals’ offense can be brought back to life, maybe the Canucks’ can, too.

2. Trade Cory Schneider and keep Roberto Luongo

There’s no question Schneider would garner the bigger return. He’s seven years younger (27 versus 34), has a far less risky contract, and his numbers were better than Luongo’s during the regular season. But is this even an option with all that’s happened (see: the Great Canucks Goaltending Soap Opera)? Does Luongo want out so badly at this point that not trading him would create an even bigger problem? Or, does he just want to start somewhere — anywhere— in the NHL? Whatever happens, one of Schneider or Luongo has to be gone by training camp. There’s no question there.

3. Trade Alex Edler

The 27-year-old defenseman only recently signed a 6-year, $30 million extension. But as any regular Vancouver observer can tell you, there are games when Edler looks like a future Norris Trophy candidate, and games when he…doesn’t. Moving him isn’t something the Canucks will want to do, but if he could be dealt to, say, Philadelphia for, say, Sean Couturier, wouldn’t they at least have to consider it? Vancouver would still have three solid veteran d-men in Dan Hamhuis, Kevin Bieksa, and Jason Garrison, plus youngsters Chris Tanev and Frank Corrado. If they buy out Keith Ballard, there would be more room to add blue-line depth in free agency or via trade.

4. Sign David Clarkson

The 29-year-old Devils’ winger is an unrestricted free agent whose toughness and goal-scoring ability could make for a welcome addition. We can probably assume speedy-but-slight winger Mason Raymond and undersized center Derek Roy have played their last games in Vancouver uniforms — both are pending unrestricted free agents. There’s also the potential to buy out David Booth, though the fact he’s injured may affect that. There will be lots of competition for Clarkson, if he doesn’t re-sign in New Jersey. So even if they do decide to make a pitch, the Canucks could hardly count on landing him.

5. Take a deep breath

What if Jannik Hansen hadn’t missed the open net in Game 2? What if the referees hadn’t whistled Bieksa and Daniel Sedin for penalties in Game 4? The Canucks were swept by San Jose, yes. They deserved to lose, absolutely. But it was a lack of discipline combined with uncharacteristically poor penalty killing that really killed them. Do you blow up a team that still managed to win its division without Ryan Kesler for more than half the season and without Booth for all but 12 games?

Gillis, by the way, will meet with the Vancouver media on Thursday at noon local time.

Khudobin delivered an encouraging performance for the Bruins

Boston Bruins right wing David Pastrnak (88) and left wing Brad Marchand (63) celebrate with goalie Anton Khudobin after he blocked a shot by Carolina Hurricanes left wing Jeff Skinner to win the game, 2-1, in a shootout during an NHL hockey game, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016, in Boston. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
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Anton Khudobin gave the Boston Bruins a much-needed win last night.

He also gave Tuukka Rask a much-welcomed night off.

The Bruins beat the Hurricanes, 2-1, in a shootout at TD Garden. Khudobin made 29 saves, plus two more in the shootout, including the game-decider on Jeff Skinner.

It was an encouraging performance by Khudobin, who returned to the Bruins net after a conditioning stint in the AHL. It was the first time this season that a Boston goalie other than Rask was credited with a win.

“Very good,” head coach Claude Julien said of Khudobin’s play. “He deserves a lot of accolades tonight, for the way he played, the way he responded after being out such a long time. I think the fact that he went to Providence and played some games there really helped him get back on track. Tonight, he showed that he was ready to play.”

Julien added, “No doubt, there’s a lot of confidence that grew in that dressing room by watching his play and knowing that we’ve got two goaltenders that can play extremely well for us.”

The Bruins did not feel they had good enough backup goaltending the past two seasons, both of which ended outside the playoff picture. And so they bid adieu to Niklas Svedberg and Jonas Gustavsson, bringing Khudobin back into the fold on a two-year contract.

Granted, one win isn’t enough to conclude that Khudobin will be fine. He’s now 1-3-0 with a .902 save percentage, and those numbers could still be much better.

But he’ll be back in there soon enough. The Bruins have 15 more games in December, and Rask isn’t going to play them all.

Blues ‘need more’ from Lehtera, who could be healthy scratched

Jori Lehtera
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Jori Lehtera received one of his lowest ice times of the season in Thursday’s win over Tampa Bay — just 11:21 — and was demoted to the fourth line at Friday’s practice.

If that didn’t send a message, Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock delivered it shortly thereafter.

“We’re going to need more from him,” Hitchcock said, per NHL.com’s Lou Korac. “The position we have him in, we need more from that position.”

Lehtera was signed to a three-year, $14.1 million extension after a solid ’14-15 campaign, in which he scored 14 goals and 44 points in 75 games. His offensive production sagged a bit last year (nine goals, 34 points in 79 games) and he’s gone through some difficult stretches this year.

The 28-year-old Finn had just three points through his first 15 games of the year, but did look as though he’d turned the corner recently. Prior to the Bolts game he had four points in four contests, including his first multi-goal effort of the season (potting a pair in a 4-2 win over Boston).

Clearly, though, Hitchcock thinks there’s more to give.

Per the Post-Dispatch, Hitch said he’s unsure if Lehtera will play on Saturday, when the Blues host the Jets. Nail Yakupov and Ty Rattie both sat out against Tampa Bay, and either one could draw into the lineup.

The Lehtera development comes with the Blues playing some of their best hockey of the year. They’ve won seven of their last eight, and are just four points back of Chicago for top spot in the Western Conference.

Pre-game reading: Some advice for Nolan Patrick

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— Up top, Mike Milbury and Keith Jones discuss the Penguins’ two-goalie situation, which GM Jim Rutherford recently admitted was not working as well as he’d hoped.

Nolan Patrick, the likely first overall pick in the 2017 NHL draft, is currently out with an injury. Tyler Benson, a top draft prospect last year who battled injuries, has some advice for Patrick: “I don’t think he should be worrying about the draft. People know what kind of player he can be. He’s played two years in this league already and he’s dominated. I think he should worry about making sure he’s 100 per cent when he comes back.” Benson was eventually selected 32nd overall by the Oilers. (The Province)

— A couple of weeks ago, Senators owner Eugene Melnyk got mad at the Ottawa Citizen newspaper after an editorial called on him to push for an outdoor game at TD Place. Yada, yada, yada, Melynk is now pushing for an outdoor game at TD Place. (Ottawa Sun)

Hampus Lindholm has been good defensively in his return to the Anaheim Ducks, but with only two assists in his first 11 games, you have to think he’ll want to start contributing more to the offense soon. Lindholm is now the highest-paid defenseman on his team, with a cap hit just over $5 million. And if the Ducks have to trade Cam Fowler at any point, they’ll need Lindholm’s offense even more. That’s just the pressure that comes with a big contract. We’ll see how he fares. (OC Register)

— In 2015-16, no Canadian teams made the NHL playoffs for the first time since 1969-70. So, how are things looking this season? Long story short, quite a bit better. Three of the seven Canadian teams are currently in a playoff spot, and the other four aren’t out of it yet. (TSN)

— What a surprise, the Winnipeg Jets hurt themselves with too many penalties last night against Edmonton. “Those early penalties and how much time we spent in the box early on killed us,” said Bryan Little. “Our PK couldn’t get it done.” This has been a problem for way too long now. Over the last three seasons combined, the Jets have gone shorthanded 686 times, the most in the NHL. Clearly, they aren’t good enough to play with such poor discipline, so perhaps they should figure it out. (Winnipeg Sun)

Enjoy the games!

Goalie nods: It’s Chad Johnson’s net in Calgary

CALGARY, AB - OCTOBER 18: Chad Johnson #31 of the Calgary Flames in action against the Buffalo Sabres during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on October 18, 2016 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
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Chad Johnson, the Flames’ goalie of record in eight of their last 10 games, will once again be in goal when Calgary hosts Minnesota on Friday night.

Johnson, as we’ve written about on numerous occasions, was terrific for the Flames in November, going 7-3-0 with a 1.80 GAA and .939 save percentage. He essentially wrestled the No. 1 gig away from Brian Elliott, and closed out the month in style by posting a 39-save shutout against Toronto on Wednesday.

As a result, Calgary has clawed back from a disappointing start to draw within one point of Nashville for the final wild card spot in the Western Conference (granted, the Flames have played four more games than the Preds).

For the Wild, Devan Dubnyk‘s in goal.

Elsewhere…

— Just one other game this evening, as Montreal takes on the Sharks in San Jose. It promises to be a quality matchup as both teams are rolling with their No. 1s: Carey Price for the Habs, Martin Jones for the Sharks.