Luongo, Kruger

BREAKING: Canucks could use a win tonight

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By the end of the night’s action, the Vancouver Canucks could be six points back of a playoff spot in the Western Conference, and in fairly big trouble.

Or, they could be two points back, and things wouldn’t look quite so bad.

So yeah, tonight is sort of pivotal, given the way the standings look right now:

source:

The Canucks host the Kings tonight, while the Coyotes are in Nashville and the Wild entertain the Blues.

The last time Vancouver missed the playoffs was 2007-08, when players like Markus Naslund and Brendan Morrison were still with the club. Since then, the Canucks have won a pair of Presidents’ Trophies and made it all the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. So the concern at the team’s current place in the standings is understandable.

Also understandable is the frustration. With the exception of Tuesday’s shootout loss to Florida, the Canucks have actually played quite well in recent home defeats. They got unlucky in a 2-1 overtime loss to San Jose; they outshot Dallas, 43-23, and lost by a goal; and on Saturday, it was a nine-second lapse versus the Blackhawks that cost them.

Based on possession stats like Corsi and Fenwick, the Canucks are one of the best teams in the NHL. But hockey games are decided by goals, and an inability to finish chances has cost Vancouver. Per Extra Skater, the Canucks’ shooting percentage is just 7.8, 24th overall.

Alex Burrows is the poster child for Vancouver’s snakebitten forwards. In 13 games, the 32-year-old has no goals on 42 shots. No NHL forward has that many shots without at least a goal.

“The worst part is you feel like you let your teammates down and it’s not a good feeling,” said Burrows, per The Province. “A goal here and there could change the storyline at the end of the night. You have to put in the extra work. Work harder in the gym and on the ice and prepare harder. Eat better and sleep better and if you do all those things, you’re going to get your luck.”

Burrows has a career shooting percentage of 13.1, so it’s not like he’s known for lacking finish.

Granted, the Canucks still have 57 games to pull themselves out of their Western Conference hole. Goalie Roberto Luongo said today that he doesn’t “look at the standings right now.”

Then again, he doesn’t really need to, given the constant reminders from media and fans.

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.