Radim Vrbata, Ondrej Pavelec

Coyotes explain why they let Vrbata walk

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As much as the story of Radim Vrbata’s new contract was about the Vancouver Canucks adding a key winger, the other reaction was: who, exactly, is going to score goals for the Arizona Coyotes next season?

That question remains, yet Coyotes GM Don Maloney answered another big question with Fox Sports Arizona’s Craig Morgan: why did they let the 33-year-old forward go?

It certainly doesn’t sound like the Coyotes were glad to part with him like, say, Mike Ribeiro (whom they paid to go away). Maloney told Morgan that he was in contact with Vrbata over texts to try to work something out and seemed to get very close.

The stumbling block was clear: Vrbata wanted a  no-trade or no-movement clause while Maloney and the Coyotes stood their ground.

As Morgan discusses here, Vrbata seemed like he wanted to stay with the Coyotes, yet the Canucks’ deal provided security he simply couldn’t turn down:

Vrbaa and his wife, Petra, had their second son (Oliver) on April 30, so there was plenty of thought given to remaining in Phoenix. They weren’t keen on the idea of uprooting the family at such a delicate time. The couple loves living in the Valley, and Vrbata knows full well that his best years as a pro have all come wearing a Coyotes sweater.

The next question is: will Maloney regret “dying on this hill?”

On one hand, you have plenty of examples of teams struggling to deal a player who wants out but also gets to make the call about where he’ll accept a trade.

On the other hand, would Maloney be better served stating that he won’t give out such clauses to players on long-term deals? One would imagine it’s a little easier to stomach a player who has that power on a two-year contract like the one Vrbata signed, especially if he was willing to take less money with the Coyotes.

Either way, many West teams got much more formidable on paper while the Coyotes did not. At the same time, Maloney & Co. can enjoy more flexibility and hope that the team’s young players can pick up the slack.

Did Maloney make the right choice?

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.”