Eddie Lack

It’s Vancouver Canucks Day at PHT

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Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The Vancouver Canucks.

After back-to-back first round exits under head coach Alain Vigneault, Canucks GM Mike Gillis fired Vigneault and replaced him with John Tortorella under the belief that the new bench boss would make Vancouver a better playoff team. Things obviously didn’t go as planned.

Vancouver ranked 28th in the league in goals scored per game and Tortorella’s system drew a lot of heat due to those offensive woes. Even the Sedin twins weren’t exempt as Henrik and Daniel finished the campaign with 50 and 47 points respectively.

Without much offensive support, the situation became dire in Vancouver. Although Tortorella initially led them to a 23-11-6 record, the Canucks went into a 13-24-5 free fall. Over the course of that collapse, they were subjected to a number of humbling events.

The Canucks suffered a 9-1 blowout loss to Anaheim on Jan. 15, which was so bad that Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau seemed to expressed some regret for the way his team humiliated Vancouver.

Mere days after that, Tortorella lost his cool due to a game-opening line brawl against Calgary and tried to enter the Flames’ dressing room. That earned him a 15-day suspension.

Vancouver arguably hit rock bottom when it collapsed against the Islanders on March 10. The Canucks had a 3-0 lead in that game before they conceded seven goals in the third period. Ryan Kesler, who is now with Anaheim after requesting a trade, called that collapse embarrassing.

What’s the good news for Vancouver? All of that is in the past now.

Offseason recap

The Canucks have been nothing if not active this summer. For starters Gills and Tortorella are out in Vancouver and have been replaced by new GM Jim Benning and head coach Willie Desjardins. The Canucks also named Trevor Linden as the team president in April.

As mentioned above, the Canucks accommodated Kesler by trading him and a 2015 third round pick to Anaheim in exchange for Nick Bonino, Luca Sbisa, a 2014 first round pick (Jared McCann), and a third round selection. The Canucks then sent that third round pick to the Rangers to get Derek Dorsett while New York drafted Keegan Iverson.

On top of all that, the Canucks dealt Jason Garrison, Jeff Costello, and a 2015 seventh round selection to the Tampa Bay Lightning for a second round pick, which they then used to get 23-year-old forward Linden Vey from the Kings. Los Angeles drafted Roland McKeown with the pick.

They also signed goaltender Ryan Miller to a three-year, $18 million contract and forward Radim Vrbata to a two-year, $10 million deal.

Leon Draisaitl continues hot streak with silky smooth goal (Video)

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Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk has been the most difficult goalies to score against this season. Leave it to a high-level player like Leon Draisaitl to make it look this, well, “easy.”

Draisaitl scored his 13th goal of 2016-17 by capping this pretty give-and-go play with Benoit Pouliot. You can see the frustration from Dubnyk at the end of the tally, as if he was saying “How was I supposed to stop that?” (though probably with more colorful language).

Draisaitl came into Friday with five goals and three assists in his last five games, so he’s been almost unstoppable lately.

Read more about his rise here.

Video: Kuznetsov sets table for Vrana’s first NHL goal

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JUNE 27:  Jakub Vrana of the Washington Capitals poses for a portrait during the 2014 NHL Draft at the Wells Fargo Center on June 27, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
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In his fifth NHL game, intriguing Washington Capitals prospect Jakub Vrana scored his first NHL goal (and point).

Let’s be honest, though; Evgeny Kuznetsov deserves plenty of the credit, as he sent a fantastic pass for Vrana’s tap-in tally.

See it for yourself:

Even if that was mostly Kuznetsov, Vrana has been getting his chances so far.

He generated four shots on goal in two separate occasions so far in his four games of NHL action, so maybe he was due for a chance like this.

Considering he’s just 20 years old, the Capitals could get used to Kuznetsov to Vrana.

Update: The Capitals won 4-1, and Vrana’s first goal wasn’t the only noteworthy “first.” After piling on shots, John Carlson finally scored his first goal of the season:

Kulikov returns to increasingly healthy Sabres lineup

CALGARY, AB - OCTOBER 18: Dmitry Kulikov #77 of the Buffalo Sabres in action against the Calgary Flames during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on October 18, 2016 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
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No one’s going to confuse Dmitry Kulikov with Jack Eichel, but the Buffalo Sabres are likely happy to have him back after a long absence, too.

The Sabres have been on an upward trend lately (5-2-2 in their last nine games), and now they get a key defenseman back against the Washington Capitals on Friday night.

Kulikov last played on Nov. 9 and hasn’t recorded a point in 12 games, making for a tough start to his stint with the Sabres. Maybe he’ll begin to get a little more traction with his new team tonight?

He’s far from the only returning Buffalo player, either, as Josh Gorges and Nicolas Deslauriers are also back in the mix. Kulikov is slated to be on the Sabres’ second pairing with Cody Franson.

Buffalo sent Brendan Guhle to the AHL to make room for these tweaks.

With Foligno out sick, Columbus gives Bjorkstrand another shot

COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 13:  Oliver Bjorkstrand #28 of the Columbus Blue Jackets lines up for a face-off during the game against the Boston Bruins on October 13, 2016 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
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The Columbus Blue Jackets will be without captain Nick Foligno because of an illness on Friday, opening up an opportunity for interesting prospect Oliver Bjorkstrand.

The team tweeted out his linemates as Matt Calvert and Lukas Sedlak as a solid fourth line facing the Detroit Red Wings.

He failed to generate much (zero points, two shots on goal) in three games so far with Columbus this season, receiving about 25 minutes of ice time over that span.

With eight goals and 12 points in 19 AHL games so far in 2016-17, there’s the thought that he could eventually make the next step to becoming a decent contributor for the Blue Jackets.

Perhaps this will constitute his first real step in that direction?

Apparently this is a pretty abrupt situation for the 21-year-old: