Connor McDavid

NHL ‘not worried about tanking for McDavid and Eichel,’ says Buffalo GM

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With so much focus on the 2015 NHL Entry Draft and its two big prizes — OHL Erie wunderkind Connor McDavid and Boston University recruit Jack Eichel — the subject of tanking has arisen lately, especially after CBC’s Elliotte Friedman floated a report that the NHL was considering a change to the draft lottery format.

But one of the GMs expected to be a major player at the ’15 draft says he doesn’t expect any significant changes to occur.

“We’ve all heard that talk of the five-team, five-year rotation, things like that, but there’s been really no appetite to do that,” Sabres GM Tim Murray said, per the Buffalo News. “They don’t think there’s any appetite right now to change it. I believe if there is an appetite to change it, if they’re going to make a drastic change, it has to be something like three to five years out so it doesn’t affect somebody that’s in that position now.

“From what I understand, they’re not worried about tanking for McDavid and Eichel.”

Buffalo, currently the NHL’s last-place team, is expected to struggle again in 2014-15 and be in the McDavid/Eichel sweepstakes next June. What’s more, the Sabres are currently armed with two first-round picks in ’15 — their own, and the one acquired from St. Louis in the Ryan Miller-Steve Ott trade.

Talk of tanking and jockeying for draft position promises to get bigger and bigger as we get closer to next June, as McDavid is considered by many to be the best pro prospect since Sidney Crosby. The 6-foot, 185-pounder won OHL Rookie of the Year last year and had 99 points in 56 games this season; Eichel, meanwhile, drew rave reviews while playing for the U.S. U-18 team, prompting head coach Danton Cole to compare him to Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf and Los Angeles’ Jeff Carter.

“[Eichel] has the size and scoring, plus the good stick like those two players,” Cole said, per NHL.com. “I think his skating explosiveness is off the charts though.”

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.”