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Canucks’ six-game tear is good for Ryan Miller, if no one else

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If anyone can benefit from the Vancouver Canucks not doing a “tank job,” it’s the one guy conceivably most capable of thwarting such efforts: Ryan Miller, whose contract expires after this season.

It’s no secret that a goalie can make the difference between winning and losing many nights, and that was certainly the case on Friday; Miller willed the Canucks to a 4-2 win against the Calgary Flames, the team’s sixth consecutive victory. As of this moment, Vancouver is – shockingly – in the West’s final wild card spot.

The Flames generated more shots on goal in the third period (23) than Vancouver managed all game as Calgary ultimately generated a 46-13 edge. Miller had none of it, stopping 44 out of 46 shots.

Loui Eriksson didn’t really provide in-depth analysis above, but at least it shows that the Canucks are aware of how much this latest win hinged on Miller’s performance.

That’s fitting, too, because Miller’s future hinges on his work in 2016-17 overall.

At 36, his stature in the league is muted, yet one could also see serious potential as a backup or 1B-platoon-type goalie. If a contender like Tampa Bay or Pittsburgh loses a key goalie, maybe they scoop up Miller at a decent price, giving him a chance to extend his career while making a little more money?

Such a scenario is far easier to ponder if Miller keeps the Canucks in the playoff picture.

Now, this six-game winning streak is actually logically timed, even if Friday’s game is by no means repeatable.

The Canucks have played five of their last six games in Vancouver and nine of 11 overall at home since Dec. 16. If they were ever to go on an anti-tanking run, this would be the time to do it.

Now, we can debate the merits of piling up wins this late in the season all we want, but we can be certain that Miller has zero interest in losing games.

If he keeps this up, we might just get a real barometer regarding how much management truly wants to win vs. trying to get the best draft lottery odds possible.

Report: Blue Jackets RFA Anderson in contact with Hockey Canada about 2018 Olympics

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The preseason is well underway and Josh Anderson is still without a contract.

Anderson, who scored 17 goals and 29 points last season for the Columbus Blue Jackets, is one of two remaining restricted free agents without a new deal. The other is Andreas Athanasiou of the Detroit Red Wings.

While there were reports this summer about Athanasiou potentially going to the KHL for this season, John Shannon of Sportsnet reported on Thursday that Anderson’s representatives have reached out to Hockey Canada’s staff about the 2018 Olympics. 

Anderson’s entry-level contract, with an AAV of just over $894,000, expired at the end of last season.

Meanwhile, here is the latest on this ongoing contract situation.

Making an impression: Sergachev has ‘NHL written all over him’

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Mikhail Sergachev has, over the summer, stated his belief he can play in the NHL this season.

He had a small taste of NHL action last season, appearing in four games for Montreal — the team that selected him ninth overall in 2016 — before getting sent back to junior and then being traded in June to Tampa Bay, as part of a blockbuster involving Jonathan Drouin to the Habs.

Well, Sergachev made a statement Wednesday in his preseason debut for the Lightning.

He scored once. He also played more than 22 minutes, which led all Lightning players on the night. That included time on the power play and penalty kill. If he was looking to make a favorable impression, to show that he belongs at the NHL level when the regular season begins, this seems to be another step in that direction.

“You watch this kid skate, shoot, stickhandle, he’s got NHL written all over him,” Tampa Bay’s associate coach Rick Bowness told the Tampa Bay Times. “Now we’ve got to give him experience. How much can he handle?”

There is competition on the blue line, with eight defensemen under contract in Tampa Bay for this season. That includes Sergachev, who is still only 19 years old. After getting sent back to junior last season, he recorded 43 points in 50 games with Windsor and then won the Memorial Cup that spring. That said, he’s made it a point of saying going back to junior “is not an option” for him.

Related:

Looking to make the leap: Mikhail Sergachev

Report: Lupul will have ‘independent medical exam’

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Joffrey Lupul issued a statement Wednesday, saying he wouldn’t seek a second medical opinion after the Maple Leafs announced he didn’t pass his training camp physical.

A day later, reports have surfaced that the 33-year-old forward will, in fact, undergo another, independent medical test.

That is according to James Mirtle of The Athletic:

Earlier this week, Lupul made accusations against the Maple Leafs on Instagram.

“I’m ready … just awaiting the call,” Lupul wrote in the comments section of the Instagram post, per a screen grab. “haha failed physical? They cheat. Everyone lets them.”

Lupul, who didn’t pass his physical for a second year in a row, issued an apology yesterday. But those comments — which have since been deleted — seem to have grabbed the attention of the league.

Darren Dreger of TSN added to that, saying it’s the NHL pursuing a second medical opinion on this matter.

“The National Hockey League has that right to pursue the second opinion. That’s exactly what they’re engaging in right now,” Dreger reported Thursday.

“The reasoning behind it is because of the comment that Lupul made on social media. I’ll go back a year ago. The league didn’t step in a year ago but Lupul stayed quiet at that point. So they want to make sure — ‘They’ being the National Hockey League — that the medical evaluation from the Toronto Maple Leafs is 100 per cent above the board.”

Team USA won’t include NHL draft-eligible prospects at 2018 Olympics

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) General manager Jim Johannson has ruled out the possibility of the U.S. men’s hockey team having NHL draft-eligible prospects competing at the Winter Olympics in February.

Johannson tells The Associated Press he doesn’t view anyone from the 18-and-younger pool of prospects capable of cracking the projected lineup of non-NHL players, many of whom are opening this season playing in Europe.

USA Hockey’s assistant executive director says he’s also targeting a number of established college players, and would not rule out keeping a spot or two open for members of the U.S. team competing at the World Junior Championships this winter.

Johansson spoke in Buffalo, New York, on Thursday, where he is attending USA Hockey’s sixth annual All-American Prospects game. The game features the top 42 U.S.-born players eligible to be selected in the NHL draft in June.