Jason Brough

Jim Benning, Willie Desjardins, Trevor Linden

‘As of today,’ Benning sees Desjardins returning as Canucks coach


About a month ago, Canucks president of hockey operations Trevor Linden confirmed a report that head coach Willie Desjardins would be back next season.

In doing so, Linden praised Desjardins for his work with Vancouver’s young players and said “there’s no reason for us to consider a change.”

The Canucks were struggling at the time, but they’ve really struggled since, with just three wins in their last 13. They got thumped, 6-2, last night in Edmonton, one of the more embarrassing losses of the campaign.

And so, today, GM Jim Benning was asked again about Desjardins.

Specifically, he was asked if there was any doubt in his mind that Desjardins would be the coach at training camp.

“Well, as of today, no,” Benning told TSN 1040 radio (audio).

It was an interesting way of putting it, since he could’ve just said “no.”

Instead, he prefaced it with “as of today.”

That has many wondering if the Canucks are going to wait and see how things shake out elsewhere around the league. For example, what if the Bruins miss the playoffs and fire Claude Julien — would the Canucks take a run at him? What if the Blues have another early exit — would Ken Hitchcock become available?

It’s all speculation, but to steal Benning’s phrase, as of today, one of the main arguments for keeping Desjardins is the lack of outstanding candidates to replace him.

And that could change soon, depending what happens elsewhere.

Backstrom feels ‘100 percent,’ will return for Caps tonight

Nicklas Backstrom

Washington Capitals fans can breathe a sigh of relief today after learning Nicklas Backstrom is healthy enough to play tonight versus Pittsburgh.

Backstrom has missed the last three games with an upper-body injury.

“He’s one of the best centermen in the National Hockey League,” Caps coach Barry Trotz told reporters, per CSN Washington. “Getting him back gives us a little more depth, a few more options and a real good player back in.”

Backstrom is expected to center Alex Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie, with a second line of Evgeny Kuznetsov between Andre Burakovsky and Justin Williams.

The 1-2 combination of Backstrom and Kuznetsov is a big reason the Caps have been so successful during the regular season, so having a healthy Backstrom heading into arguably the most important postseason in franchise history is rather important.

“I feel like I’m 100 percent,” Backstrom said, per the Washington Post. “I think it’s important, too, that you feel good before you come back because we’ve clinched a playoff spot already, so there’s no need to rush back, I think. But at the same time, you want to play a couple games before.”

Kings to play two preseason games at new Vegas arena

In this March 28, 2016, photo, workers finish construction outside of the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The latest multi-million dollar development on the Las Vegas Strip features a leafy outdoor pedestrian area, 20,000 seat arena and small theater. The arena is scheduled to open April 6. (AP Photo/John Locher)

The Los Angeles Kings will play two preseason games in Las Vegas at the recently opened T-Mobile Arena. They’ll host the Stars on Friday, Oct. 7, and the Avalanche the next day.

The Kings have already played numerous preseason games in Las Vegas as part of their Frozen Fury series, but those games were held at the MGM Grand.

“We are excited to be featured in one of the very first sporting events at the new T-Mobile Arena and we look forward to creating new Frozen Fury memories there,” said the Kings’ president of business operations, Luc Robitaille, in a release.

T-Mobile Arena is, of course, the potential future home of a Las Vegas expansion team. Its construction was a joint venture between MGM Resorts International and AEG, the latter of which owns the Kings.

Related: Foley is ‘9.5’ out of 10 confident that NHL will expand to Vegas

Late-season injuries provide Bickell another shot with ‘Hawks

Chicago Blackhawks left wing Bryan Bickell, left, controls the puck against Minnesota Wild left wing Jason Zucker during the second period  of Game 2 in the second round of the NHL Stanley Cup hockey playoffs in Chicago, Sunday, May 3, 2015. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Bryan Bickell will return to the Chicago Blackhawks’ lineup tonight at United Center versus the Blues, marking his first appearance in an NHL game since January.

Bickell was recalled from AHL Rockford yesterday, in the wake of injuries to Marian Hossa, Artem Anisimov, and Andrew Shaw.

It remains to be seen how long Bickell will remain in the lineup. Hossa and Anisimov are expected back in time for the playoffs, if not sooner. But Shaw is doubtful for Saturday’s regular-season finale in Columbus, bringing his postseason availability into question.

At this morning’s skate, Bickell was on a line with Andrew Desjardins and Dale Weise.

Bickell, 30, had a respectable 15 goals in 44 games for Rockford, but has no goals in 23 games for the ‘Hawks this season.

Rangers’ Girardi is ‘day-to-day’ with upper-body injury

New York Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi shoots and scores to tie the game during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Florida Panthers, Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi will not play tonight versus the Islanders due to an upper-body injury. His status for Saturday’s regular-season finale versus Detroit is also in question.

“I would say day-to-day and we’ll see how he feels tomorrow,” New York head coach Alain Vigneault told reporters, per NorthJersey.com.

Girardi was hurt late in Tuesday’s game against the Lightning when his former teammate, Brian Boyle, knocked him into the end boards.

Girardi’s spot tonight will be filled by veteran Dan Boyle, who got the night off versus Tampa Bay.

Dylan McIlrath and Brady Skjei will both remain in the lineup, as Ryan McDonagh is out for at least the rest of the regular season — and quite likely into the playoffs — with a hand injury.