Luongo, Kruger

Tortorella calls on Luongo to step up during breakdowns

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The Vancouver Canucks have earned just a single victory in their last eight games and that’s caused them to fall five points shy of a playoff spot.

If you had to point to one general thing that’s gone wrong with them lately, it would be their anemic offense as they’ve been held to only one goal on five separate occasions during their recent slump. Still, Canucks coach John Tortorella thinks that goaltender Roberto Luongo isn’t blameless in all of this.

“I’m not letting Lui off the hook, he needs to help us,” Tortorella told the Vancouver Province. “I love our goalie. I love our goalies. I think they’ve played really well.

“We also need a save when there is a breakdown. You look at (Los Angeles Kings goaltender Ben) Scrivens (Monday). We had a chance to go up 3-1. We had four glorious scoring chances, he makes four saves.

“We need something like that to happen for us. I’m not putting all the onus on Lui, but he’s part of the problem here as far as closing out games. It goes right through our team and it goes to the coaching staff, too.”

Luongo has had rough starts to be sure, but he’s been far from bad lately. He’s enjoyed a 2.17 GAA and .916 save percentage this month, but it’s only led to a 3-3-4 record.

He feels he’s been playing well too, although he certainly agrees with Tortorella that there’s room for improvement.

The Canucks will play against Ottawa tonight. If Luongo gets the nod, maybe he’ll be able to find another level and carry the Canucks. Of course, it certainly would help matters if Vancouver’s forwards showed signs of thawing out.

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.