Jason Brough

Vancouver Canucks left wing Sven Baertschi (47) gets ahead of Boston Bruins defenseman Kevan Miller (86) on his way to scoring during the first period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016, in Boston. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Baertschi’s been a bright spot for Vancouver


In Vancouver, it’s all about finding the bright spots now.

That’s because the Canucks are on pace to finish with their worst record since 1998-99. Barring a miracle, they’ll miss the playoffs for the second time in three years.

But while GM Jim Benning has faced criticism for many of his moves — or, in the case of the most recent trade deadline, his complete lack of moves — it’s hard to say he screwed up by surrendering a second-round draft pick to get Sven Baertschi from the Calgary Flames.

Since joining the Canucks organization a year ago, the 23-year-old winger has slowly but surely become one of the team’s most reliable forwards.

“He’s not really the same player. He competes way harder now,” coach Willie Desjardins said last night.

“I always believed in him because I thought he liked the game and he had passion for the game. I think that’s really important. But now his passion’s even more. He wants the puck, he wants to make things happen, and he’s trying to make things happen every shift.”

Baertschi only has 14 goals in 61 games, so he still has a ways to go. But most of his goals have come in the second half of the season, as his ice time has gone up and he’s become a fixture on the power play. And, hey, on the offensively challenged Canucks, 14 goals is actually the third most on the team. 

“There was a time when we were wondering if he was a fit for this team,” Desjardins said. “I think there’s some people who believed in him in the organization. It was a good thing they did.”

Related: Burke rips Baertschi

Crosby: I’ve ‘never been approached’ about taking PEDs

Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby skates during the first day of NHL hockey training camp, Friday, Sept. 19, 2014, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has long maintained that performance-enhancing drugs are not a problem for the league, going so far as to say that the “alleged benefits of steroid use — significant large muscle development — are not consistent with playing hockey at the highest level of the sport.”

Bettman’s claims have been disputed, and many have called for a tougher testing program.

But unlike baseball, hockey doesn’t have raging debates about whether certain players should be inducted into the Hall of Fame because they took steroids when everyone was taking steroids.

And no NHLer, to our knowledge, has ever been accused of needing a way bigger helmet compared to when he was a rookie.

According to Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, he’s never even been approached about taking PEDs.

“You hear stories about the odd guy who tests positive,” Crosby told ESPN.com. “Seriously, I have never been approached. Not once [have I been] in a situation where somebody’s asked me if I wanted to use a certain substance or anything like that.”

He added that the biggest issue for NHLers is supplements.

“There are so many supplements out there, so many different countries,” he said. “What’s approved, what’s not. What’s accepted at the Olympics is different than [NHL guidelines], so you really have to stay on that.”

Ignorance was what Jarred Tinordi claimed for his recent 20-game suspension for PEDs.

“I did not knowingly take a banned substance,” the Coyotes defenseman said. “I understand, however, that I am responsible for what enters my body as a professional athlete and I accept the suspension.”

Shawn Horcoff, Carter Ashton, Zenon Konopka and Sean Hill made similar claims when they were suspended. Some believed them; some didn’t.

Regardless, the NHL will be happy to hear what Crosby said.

“There is no issue to battle,” deputy commissioner Bill Daly insisted to Postmedia earlier this year. “We’ve never had an issue with performance-enhancing drugs. And we continue not to have an issue with performance-enhancing drugs.

“Am I satisfied with our program? I don’t think any program is perfect. I think there were weak pursuits in our first program that were meaningfully addressed in the most recent collective bargaining agreement negotiation where the program is better than it was when we first implemented it. Doesn’t mean it’s perfect. Doesn’t mean it can’t get better. But it’s a very adequate program.”

Crawford day-to-day with upper-body injury, won’t play Friday


Chicago goalie Corey Crawford is day-to-day with an upper-body injury and will not travel to Winnipeg for the Blackhawks’ game Friday against the Jets.

The ‘Hawks have recalled Michael Leighton from AHL Rockford, presumably to serve as Scott Darling‘s backup at MTS Centre.

It’s not clear how Crawford was hurt. He played all 60 minutes of his last start, a 5-0 loss to the Kings on Monday.

Darling started last night’s 3-2 loss to the Flyers, stopping 26 of 29 shots. According to coach Joel Quenneville, it was a planned start, i.e. nothing to do with Crawford’s health or recent play.

Voracek ‘making progress,’ nearing return to Flyers’ lineup


They’re 10-2-2 in their last 14, they just overtook Detroit for the final wild-card spot in the East, and Saturday against the Penguins, the Philadelphia Flyers might get star winger Jakub Voracek back.

Let the good times roll.

Voracek skated yesterday in Chicago, prior to his team’s big win over the Blackhawks.

“Every day he gets closer,” coach Dave Hakstol said, per philly.com. “He’s day to day, but he’s making progress.”

Voracek hasn’t played since Feb. 25 due to a lower-body injury, so he’s been working hard to get his conditioning back.

“Miss three weeks of skating, it’s hard to catch up on,” he said Monday, per the Flyers’ website. “That’s why I need a couple of practices.”

If Voracek can’t play Saturday, the Flyers’ next game is Monday in Brooklyn.

Coach Q juggles the lines, hoping ‘a different look’ can help slumping ‘Hawks

Chicago Blackhawks v Minnesota Wild - Game Three

Monday’s 5-0 loss to the Kings means new lines for the Chicago Blackhawks.

Dramatically new lines.

‘Hawks coach Joel Quenneville — in search of more “balance” and “defensive responsibility” and “consistency in the four-line rotation” — put his former combinations in the blender, hit puree and came out with the following for tonight’s home game against the surging Flyers:

Tomas Fleischmann — Jonathan ToewsPatrick Kane
Artemi Panarin — Artem AnisimovMarian Hossa
Andrew Ladd — Teuvo Teravainen — Andrew Shaw
Brandon MashinterAndrew DesjardinsDale Weise

Most notably, the trio of Panarin, Anisimov and Kane has been broken up for the time being.

“The one line’s been together all year and there was probably never a need to change it,” Quenneville said, per CSN Chicago. “But I feel right now that a different look can help everyone and give us more balance throughout the lineup.”

Also notable, the trio of Ladd, Toews, and Hossa — a combination the ‘Hawks were hoping would find some chemistry — has been split onto three different lines.

The ‘Hawks are 1-3-1 in their last five and 9-10-2 in their last 21. With 12 games remaining before the playoffs, there’s no need to panic, but there is need for improvement.

“Juggling the lines here, hopefully we can find some chemistry and get that going,” said Shaw. “We just have to get out of this little slump we’re in and push forward.”