Canucks head coach John Tortorella will return from his 15-day suspension to take on Detroit tonight and, to hear him explain it, he’s returning to a team that’s lost its way.
“We’re off the rails on a lot of different aspects,” Tortorella said of his team, which went 2-4-0 in his absence. “Every aspect of our game is off. This team can and will play the right way.”
Tortorella, who’s been away from the team since going after Calgary coach Bob Hartley on Jan. 18, was apologetic on Monday, saying he “embarrassed” his family and the organization, adding his suspension came at a time then the Canucks probably needed him most.
“I apologize first and foremost to the players, to the organization and to the league. It hasn’t been a great two weeks,” he said. “I didn’t help matters for this team and we’re in a tough spot right now. It’s up to me to do my job and get this team back.”
The Canucks won just once in regulation during Tortorella’s absence — a 2-1 victory in Edmonton — and also beat Phoenix in OT. But his time away was largely marked by defeats (to Nashville, Edmonton, Chicago and Winnipeg) and an inability to score goals. Vancouver had just 15 over the six games, five coming in one outing against the Coyotes.
Tortorella says there are many things for his players to deal with, and they’ll start with what’s between their ears.
“We had meetings this morning, we have a long list of things we need to improve at,” he said. “We need to start over on the mental side.”
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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.
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.
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“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.
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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.