Antti Niemi, Marc-Edouard Vlasic

Challenging early schedule looms for Sharks

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The general feeling is that San Jose Sharks management seemed on the verge of panic this summer, yet for the most part, the team’s core remains intact. Looking at their schedule, one cannot help but ask: will they overreact to a slow start?

The New York Rangers played the first nine games of the 2013-14 season on the road, and while they ended up fine, they looked shaky for much of the campaign … especially as Alain Vigneault settled in. With 16 of their first 21 games away from “the Shark Tank,” one wonders if things could get rocky.

Here’s the full run, which looks that much more daunting to begin the month of November (home games in bold):

Oct. 8: at Los Angeles
Oct. 11: vs. Winnipeg
Oct. 14: at Washington
Oct. 16: at New York Islanders
Oct. 18: at New Jersey
Oct. 19: at New York Rangers
Oct. 21: at Boston
Oct. 23: vs. Columbus
Oct. 25: vs. Buffalo
Oct. 26: at Anaheim
Oct. 28: at Colorado
Oct. 30: at Minnesota
Nov. 1: vs. New York Islanders
Nov. 6: vs. Vancouver
Nov. 8: at Dallas
Nov. 9: at Chicago
Nov. 11: at Florida
Nov. 13: at Tampa Bay
Nov. 15: at Columbus
Nov. 16: at Carolina
Nov. 18: at Buffalo

Things turn around for the Sharks after that run, as they’ll play six home games in row beginning on Nov. 20 and 11 of 13 in San Jose from Nov. 20 through Dec. 20, so hopefully management (or perhaps even ownership) will keep that in mind.

While they were better at home (29-7-5) last season, the Sharks were still pretty strong on the road (22-15-4), so it’s not crazy to imagine this talented group weathering the storm anyway. That’s especially true if the West continues its domination of the East in 2014-15, as 10 of those 15 road contests come against squads from the other conference.

(H/T to NHL.com’s fantasy crew for pointing out this tough start.)

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.”