Cam Tucker

WINNIPEG, MANITOBA - OCTOBER 13: Patrik Laine #29, playing his first NHL game, of the Winnipeg Jets celebrates scoring his first NHL goal against the Carolina Hurricanes during NHL action on October 22, 2016 at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, Manitoba. At top is Mathieu Perreault #85 of the Winnipeg Jets. (Photo by Jason Halstead /Getty Images)

Are the Jets a playoff team? Patrik Laine seems to think so


A week ago, Patrik Laine sat on the bench, dejected.

He had just scored into his own net by accident, a costly mistake that was a defining moment in a team loss versus Edmonton. Even Wayne Gretzky weighed in on what happened to the talented rookie forward.

On Sunday, however, Laine was back to his usual, confident self. He recorded three points, including his 18th goal of the season, as the Winnipeg Jets rolled over the floundering Colorado Avalanche by a final score of 4-1.

That win pushes the Jets to within a point of the final Wild Card spot in the West.

It’s the middle of December, the holiday break is approaching.

The Jets are in a spot where they can challenge for a post-season berth. Perhaps the prospect of finishing in the top three in the Central Division is too daunting. Chicago and St. Louis occupy two of the top three spots in that division, and Minnesota — with seven straight wins — could certainly challenge for the Central by the time this season is over.

But a Wild Card spot? The Jets are middle of the pack when it comes to scoring, and in the bottom third of the league in goals against, but the notion at least seems possible, especially since teams ahead of them like Calgary and L.A. aren’t exactly lighting up the league right now.

“I think we’ve shown we can beat teams like Chicago, St. Louis in their home building. That tells something about our team,” said Laine.

“I think we have a really good team and we just have to play our own game every night, and I think we can and we will be a playoff team.”

There are other teams, like the Dallas Stars and Nashville Predators, that might have something to say about it.

Blue Jackets extend winning streak as Torts earns career win No. 500

SUNRISE, FL - NOVEMBER 26: Head coach John Tortorella of the Columbus Blue Jackets watches a replay during a break in action against the Florida Panthers at the BB&T Center on November 26, 2016 in Sunrise, Florida. The Panthers defeated the Blue Jackets 2-1 in a shoot out. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

Make that nine straight wins for the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Make that career win No. 500 for head coach John Tortorella.

The Blue Jackets continued their recent run as the league’s hottest team with a 4-3 overtime victory on Sunday against the Vancouver Canucks — the same team Tortorella coached for one tumultuous and ultimately disappointing season.

Per the NHL, Tortorella is the first American-born coach to reach the milestone.

Seth Jones scored the winner in the three-on-three session, as the Blue Jackets were able to regroup following a difficult third period on the road.

The Canucks have shown a penchant for wild and unpredictable third periods this season. They’ve come back to earn wins, and they’ve collapsed in epic fashion to lose points, as well.

This time, they managed to score three times in the final period of regulation, gaining at least a point.

The Blue Jackets, the surprise turnaround team in the league so far this season, are one point back of the Rangers (in action tonight versus New Jersey) and the Penguins for the lead in the Metropolitan Division.

But there is no doubt this is a big win for Tortorella, as well. He’s a polarizing figure in the hockey world.

His time in Vancouver generated headlines on a constant basis, in what can be considered only as a spectacular failure, despite what was actually a strong start for the team under his guidance.

The timing of Tortorella’s visit back to Vancouver comes not only with his own team on a roll, but with the Canucks struggling and their current coach, Willie Desjardins, on the hot seat.

He’s been there for some time.

Crawford (appendectomy) is nearing a return to Blackhawks crease

NEWARK, NJ - OCTOBER 28:  Corey Crawford #50 of the Chicago Blackhawks skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on October 28, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Good news for the Chicago Blackhawks, as goalie Corey Crawford is approaching a return to game action.

Crawford had an appendectomy earlier this month, forcing him out of the lineup. He has missed the last eight games as a result.

According to reports on Sunday, Crawford could start on Friday against the Colorado Avalanche — the final game for the Blackhawks before the holiday break.

From the Chicago Tribune:

That would mean Crawford would return in the two-to-three week timetable doctors game him for returning to play after the procedure. Crawford skated in Chicago while the Hawks were on their recent three-game trip. He also skated Sunday and will skate Monday when the rest of the team is off.

In Crawford’s absence, Scott Darling has been busy in net, starting every game since Crawford underwent his procedure.

He had a nice run through the middle of this stretch, allowing a total of three goals in four games. But he has since allowed four goals in each of his last two starts — both wins.

Heading into Sunday’s game against San Jose, the Blackhawks had managed to win five of their last six games. Chicago had also appeared to be getting healthier, with the return of Jonathan Toews.

However, forward Artem Anisimov is now listed as day-to-day after suffering an injury in Saturday’s game versus St. Louis.

Report: Canucks’ Gudbranson could undergo wrist surgery

TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 5:  Erik Gudbranson #44 of the Vancouver Canucks skates against the Toronto Maple Leafs during an NHL game at the Air Canada Centre on November 5, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Leafs defeated the Canucks 6-3. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Just when the Vancouver Canucks appeared to be getting healthier . . .

There were reports Saturday night that Canucks’ defenseman Erik Gudbranson could be facing wrist surgery, which, according to News 1130 Sports in Vancouver, could mean “significant” time out of the lineup.

Earlier in the day, the club reported the 24-year-old Gudbranson, acquired in a trade last spring for rookie Jared McCann, was still being evaluated after missing Friday’s win over Tampa Bay.

The news comes after Chris Tanev, arguably the club’s most reliable defenseman, returned to the lineup after missing a total of 23 games this season with a lower-body injury.

The Canucks host John Tortorella and the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday.

‘Perfect timing’ — Tatar’s first career hat trick leads Red Wings over Ducks


DETROIT (AP) Tomas Tatar broke out of a scoring slump.

The Detroit Red Wings did, too.

Tatar got his first career hat trick, helping Detroit beat the Anaheim Ducks 6-4 on Saturday night to get a desperately needed win with a breakout offensive performance.

“It’s perfect timing,” he said.

Tatar got his third goal early in the third period, putting the puck on both sides of his stick before flipping it over John Gibson.

Detroit scored more goals (four) in the first two periods than it totaled over its previous four games – all home losses – and finished with a season scoring high.

“We knew we weren’t good enough the last four games,” Tatar said.

Detroit has needed Tatar to play better, too.

The Czech winger almost matched the number of goals (four) he scored in his first 31 games of the season. Tatar, who made his NHL debut during the 2010-11 season, scored a career-high 29 goals two years ago and had 21 goals last season.

Xavier Ouellet scored his first of the season and third of his career with 2:08 left in the second period to put the Red Wings ahead 4-3, their first lead in five games.

Petr Mrazek helped Detroit keep the lead, finishing with 21 saves.

Anaheim’s Jonathan Bernier stopped 17 shots through two periods before being pulled by Ducks coach Randy Carlyle.

“He wanted to turn things around and spark the team,” Bernier said.

Rakell and Shea Theodore scored in the first period, giving the Ducks a 2-0 lead that seemed safe against a team that has been struggling to score. Cam Fowler gave them another two-goal lead early in the second.

Tatar, though, pulled Detroit within a goal for the second time, and quickly the Red Wings figured out a way to score.

A little luck helped.

Tatar shot the puck and it went off the left skate of Fowler, caromed off the end boards and went off the back of Bernier’s left leg and into the net.

“It’s a tough building when you’re not used to those bounces,” Bernier said.

Detroit’s Dylan Larkin went to the front of the net and into the crease and was rewarded with a tying goal midway through the second period that stood after a video review and challenge by Carlyle.

“I thought I was in good position and had it,” Bernier said. “It trickled in.”

Rickard Rakell scored his second goal of the game less than two minutes later, pulling Anaheim within a goal.

The Red Wings restored their two-goal lead midway through the third when Frans Nielsen scored off a rebound in front of the net.

“It’s a game of confidence,” Nielsen said.