Jason Brough

Vancouver Canucks' defenseman Erik Gudbranson, who was acquired from the Florida Panthers in the off-season, answers questions during a news conference ahead of the NHL hockey team's training camp in Vancouver, British Columbia, Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)
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Gudbranson-Hutton pairing will be key for Canucks

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There’s a long list of things that have to go right for the Vancouver Canucks if their playoff hopes are to be realized.

One of the biggest is for new addition Erik Gudbranson to form a cohesive second pairing with sophomore Ben Hutton. If that happens, and if Alex Edler and Chris Tanev can stay healthy, the Canucks should have a reliable top-four defense, and that’s something they rarely, if ever, had last season.

Gudbranson, a big stay-at-home type, and Hutton, a puck-mover, have been skating together at training camp. The Canucks believe the pairing has great potential, with each defenseman’s strengths complementing the other’s.

“I want to get his feet moving and hit him in stride and get him up the ice with the puck as soon as possible,” Gudbranson said, per The Province. “I think we’re going to be a good partnership. We’re both on the same page. We’re both excited to play with each other and grow as a unit.”

Vancouver’s third pairing remains to be seen. Luca Sbisa with Philip Larsen is the most likely at this point, though Nikita Tryamkin and Andrey Pedan on the left side, and Alex Biega and Troy Stecher on the right, could make things interesting. Jordan Subban is another wild card. Olli Juolevi too, though he’s a long shot and will likely end up back in junior.

The Canucks were decimated by injuries to their best defensemen last season. Edler only played 52 games, Dan Hamhuis 58, and Tanev 69. Other teams with more depth could survive that, but Vancouver floundered.

That’s why health is another big thing that has to go right for the Canucks. Another injury-filled season and it’s hard to picture them staying in the playoff race.

Vancouver opens its preseason schedule tonight in San Jose.

Pouliot’s goal is to become ‘full-time player’ for Penguins

PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 27: Derrick Pouliout #51 of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates with the puck against the Washington Capitals at Consol Energy Center on December 27, 2014 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Matt Kincaid/Getty Images)
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The eighth overall pick in the 2012 draft, it’s fair to say that Derrick Pouliot has yet to reach his full potential. He’s only played 56 games for the Pittsburgh Penguins, stretched over two seasons. And compared to the rest of his draft class, that’s not very many NHL games.

Granted, it’s also fair to say that Pouliot’s still only 22, and defenseman are known to take longer to develop. This year, he says he’s come to camp in better shape, with the goal of staying with the Pens all season.

“That’s the goal. I know things can change pretty quick, but I’m confident with the shape I’m in and in my ability to play,” he said, per the Times Leader. “Hopefully I can make myself a full-time player here.”

Pouliot is still waivers-exempt, so he’ll need to earn his spot. The Penguins re-signed Justin Schultz for another year, and that could be his competition.

“We have high expectations for Derrick,” said head coach Mike Sullivan, per the Post-Gazette. “We’ve kept close tabs on him all summer long, and we knew he was coming into camp in the type of shape that he’s in. … He’s a very talented kid, and when he put those two things together, we think he’s going to improve another level.”

Report: Flames talking contract extension with Elliott

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 12: Brian Elliott #1 of the St. Louis Blues tends net against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on November 12, 2015 in New York City. The Rangers defeated the Blues 6-3.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The Calgary Flames are talking contract extension with their new goalie, Brian Elliott, according to St. Louis-based reporter Andy Strickland.

Elliott, 31, was acquired from the Blues at the draft in Buffalo. He has one year left on his current deal, at a cap hit of $2.5 million, before he can become an unrestricted free agent next summer.

No parameters of a potential deal were reported by Strickland, just that the two sides were talking. Elliott went 23-8-6 last season in St. Louis, with a .930 save percentage.

Flames GM Brad Treliving hinted at the draft that an extension could be in the cards.

“There’s no need to rush,” Treliving said, “but maybe there is a need to look at something.”

On July 1, the Flames signed Chad Johnson for one year to be the back-up. So currently, neither of Calgary’s two NHL goalies are signed past 2016-17.

Related: Elliott wants to be ‘backbone’ of Flames

No ‘crystal ball’ — CEO for Barclays Center can’t guarantee Isles will stay

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 21:  Fans arrive for the game between the New York Islanders and the Philadelphia Flyers at the Barclays Center on September 21, 2015 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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NEW YORK (AP) Pleased with the progress made during the New York Islanders’ first season in Brooklyn, Brett Yormark is looking forward to the team’s second year at Barclays Center.

“I thought we ended the year in a much better place than we started,” said Brett Yormark, the Chief Executive Office for Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment, which oversees business operations and marketing for the Barclays Center. “When you look back at those playoff games they were some of the most dramatic moments we’ve had here.”

Pointing to the improvements the team made with game presentation, including the hiring of a hockey-centric group to take over game days, Yormark said the atmosphere during the Islanders’ run to the Eastern Conference semifinals – and their first postseason series victory since 1993 – showed “hockey has arrived in Brooklyn.”

However, Yormark wouldn’t comment on reports the Islanders were already considering leaving for a new arena either near Citi Field, home to baseball’s New York Mets, or Belmont Park.

“I can’t speak to that,” Yormark said Monday in a Q&A with media before the team’s preseason opener against the Philadelphia Flyers. “All I can speak to is that collectively our team here at Barclays Center will do everything we can to provide the fans and the players with a first-class experience. And that’s what I’m focused on.”

The Islanders moved to the Brooklyn arena – home to the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets since 2012 – last year after spending the franchise’s first 43 seasons at the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island. The deal with Barclays Center on a 25-year lease was announced in 2012 after a failed attempt to secure public financing for a new arena on Long Island and zoning approval was rejected for a privately funded development plan that would have included renovations to the Coliseum

Newsday reported earlier this month the lease has an opt-out clause with a January 2017 deadline for either side to terminate the deal. The Islanders could do it effective the end of the third season, and either side could do it for after the fourth season.

“I don’t have a crystal ball,” Yormark said. “I can’t tell you what the future holds. But I can tell you adamantly that we’re committed to providing a great season for everyone involved.”

To that end, Yormark said arena management conducted focus groups with fans in Brooklyn and on Long Island, asking what they liked and what they wanted to see improved.

One of the top complaints was about transportation on the Long Island Rail Road after games. Fans were displeased with the service during the season, but noted it had improved for the playoffs, and Yormark said the LIRR had agreed to maintain the additional schedule of trains after games this season.

Among other topics Yormark addressed:

— Fans can expect to see more Islanders branding and signage around the arena, “so they can feel this is their home.” He also said there will be more equal availability of Islanders and Nets merchandising at the arena’s retail stores.

— With fans’ desire for more weekend games, Yormark noted there were 18 games scheduled on Fridays, Saturdays or Sundays this season, an increase from last year. “It’s something we need to look at and see where we can make more improvements for next year,” he said.

— The team’s ticket base had grown, with a marked increase in Manhattan residents who grew up in Long Island. He said the Long Island base had stabilized, while acknowledging some full-season ticket holders had chosen to trade down to partial plans.

“We’ve addressed everything fans had their hands raised about,” Yormark said. “I’m sure there will be more during the course of the season. We’ll remain flexible like we were last year. We’ll continue to learn and where we can get better, we will.”

‘Never say never,’ but Krueger’s commitment is to Southampton, not to making an NHL return

Southampton v Bayer Leverkusen - Pre Season Friendly
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Ralph Krueger spent one lockout-shortened season in charge of the Edmonton Oilers, before he was unceremoniously fired (via Skype) to make way for the hiring of Dallas Eakins.

But Krueger’s success at the World Cup, leading Team Europe into the best-of-three final against Team Canada, has a lot of people wondering if he might one day make an NHL return.

Krueger’s current full-time job is a big one — he’s chairman of Southampton Football Club in the English Premier League.

Suffice to say, it’s not a job one just leaves for anything.

“I came in here committed completely to Southampton Football Club and the future of that organization in my role,” Krueger said Sunday. “You can never say never, but at the moment I’m very proud to be back in hockey at this level and to be competing. We are just having so much fun in our room, the coaches, the players, the whole group is enjoying it, and I am, too. But my real life is my commitment to Southampton Football Club at the moment.”

Kreuger repeated his “never say never” line today, so it sounds like he’s at least open to the possibility. However, he insisted that he didn’t take the World Cup job with the goal of getting another job in hockey.

Related: Southampton smokes West Ham in London