Jonas Hiller, Trevor Lewis

How much will Hiller improve Calgary’s goaltending?

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In a way, it seems fitting that the Calgary Flames signing Jonas Hiller was one of the most interesting – maybe even downright mysterious – moves of the 2014 offseason. After all, it’s been a really odd run for the Swiss-born netminder lately.

An answer to each others’ problems?

In the past three seasons, he suffered through a season with a record below .500 (2011-12), vertigo-like symptoms (2012-13) and the regular upheaval that is the Anaheim Ducks’ goalie situation (most of his stay in Anaheim battling the likes of Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Ilya Bryzgalov and Frederik Andersen for playing time).

Meanwhile, the Flames’ netminding situation has been a mess. It’s easy to pin their troubles on Miikka Kiprusoff’s decline and departure, but Calgary’s save percentage has ranked in the NHL’s bottom 10 in in three of the last four seasons (while being in the top third in the NHL in 2011-12), so this is an issue that’s been lingering for some time.

As it turns out, both sides are looking for stability.

It’s unlikely that the Flames’ team-wide performance will remain the same next season, but Flames Nation plugged in some of Hiller’s numbers and saw that he could be a significant difference-maker … even if he’s not at his best. That said, even a nice goaltending boost might merely make them a failed bubble contender instead of a lottery team in the end.

The problem with improvement

Actually, that brings us to what might be the real question: just how good do the Flames want Hiller to be?

Ignoring his contract and looking at the goalie based on his career highs and lows alone, the 32-year-old might honestly be one of the biggest gambles in the league. He’s shown the talent to be elite (or near-elite), yet his production and health inspire the label “erratic” just as often.

Most importantly, the Flames don’t seem like a formidable team even if you assume that you’re getting strong goaltending. Instead, a scrappy bunch with Hiller might just ruin their chances to “tank” and add a key young player to compliment the likes of Sean Monahan, Sven Baertschi and Sam Bennett.

Executive Brian Burke seemingly detests exploiting CBA loopholes, and bringing in a talented (if occasionally crestfallen) goalie like Hiller implies a push toward competence. It’s anyone’s guess if that will work out, yet the odd thing is that the Flames might be better off if this experiment fails.

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.”