Jason Brough

Vancouver Canucks' Jake Virtanen, left, checks Ottawa Senators' Dion Phaneuf during the first period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016, in Vancouver, British Columbia. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)

Since World Juniors disappointment, Virtanen has been ‘a different player’ for Canucks


Remember when Jake Virtanen returned from the World Juniors in Finland and there was that big controversy in Vancouver over the headline in the local tabloid that read “Goat-medal winner”?

Well, it’s only been a couple of months since then, but opinions about the big, 19-year-old winger have improved considerably.

“I don’t know what happened there, but when he came back, for me, he was a different player,” Canucks forward Daniel Sedin told Postmedia.

Not only has Virtanen scored five times in 22 games since Canada’s disappointing finish in Helsinki, he’s been defensively responsible and physically engaged, mixing it up with the likes of Dion Phaneuf, Ryan Kesler, and Drew Doughty.

Wednesday night against Arizona, he leveled the Coyotes’ Connor Murphy:

That same game, he played a season-high 16:55 and assisted on the overtime winner by Markus Granlund:

In other words, Virtanen is starting to emerge into the kind of player the Canucks envisioned when they drafted him sixth overall in 2014.

“I want to be a guy that’s just a hard, honest player,” he told PHT recently. “Coming back from World Juniors…it’s nice to have the coach’s confidence in me to trust me. I felt management trusted me, so it was nice to come back and start to produce slowly. I’ve got to keep on doing that.”

Wideman has suspension reduced to 10 games


Dennis Wideman has had his suspension for hitting linesman Don Henderson from behind reduced from 20 games to 10.

The one, big thing about that? Wideman has already missed 19 games waiting for the appeals process to play out.

At the very least, the Flames’ defenseman will get back half of the $564,516 he was slated to forfeit in salary.

Wideman’s suspension — which was upheld by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman upon first appeal — was reduced on second appeal by neutral arbitrator James Oldham.

Click here to read Oldham’s opinion. The following is his final decision:


Here are the two rules to which Oldham referred, the difference being “intent to injure.”


The NHL has released the following statement:

“We are in receipt of Arbitrator James Oldham’s Opinion in the appeal of Dennis Wideman’s supplementary discipline suspension and reducing the suspension from 20 to 10 games. We strenuously disagree with the Arbitrator’s ruling and are reviewing the Opinion in detail to determine what next steps may be appropriate. We will have no further comment until we have completed our review. In light of and in response to Arbitrator Oldham’s Opinion, Mr. Wideman will be reinstated and will be eligible to participate in his team’s games, effective immediately.”

And here’s the NHLPA’s statement:

“Given that it was undisputed that Dennis suffered a concussion mere seconds prior to his collision with linesman Don Henderson, we felt strongly that there should have been no discipline.  Nonetheless we are pleased that Arbitrator Oldham found that the collision was not intentional and that the suspension was reduced to 10 games. We respect the process and the decision and we look forward to Dennis returning to the ice tonight with his teammates.”

Related: Burke blasts Bettman for ‘incomprehensible’ time it took for Wideman ruling

Goalie nods: Surging Flyers to face red-hot Bishop

Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Ben Bishop looks at the ice after allowing a goal by Detroit Red Wings' Gustav Nyquist in the second period of an NHL hockey game in Detroit, Saturday, March 28, 2015. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

The Philadelphia Flyers were impressive in beating the Tampa Bay Lightning, 4-2, on Monday at Wells Fargo Center.

But for the record, they didn’t beat Ben Bishop, as the Bolts went with backup Andrei Vasilevskiy for that game.

Tonight, the two teams meet again, this time in Tampa, and this time with Bishop between the pipes.

Bishop has been excellent of late. The 29-year-old is 6-0-1 in his last seven starts, with a save percentage of .954. His only loss during that stretch came Tuesday, a 1-0 overtime decision versus the Bruins — a game in which he was named second star.

The Flyers, meanwhile, enter tonight’s action just three points back of the Penguins for the final wild-card spot in the East.

“I think it can be a huge statement game,” winger Wayne Simmonds told CSN Philly. “To beat [the Lightning] the way we played in our building and to go there and be able to do the same thing, I think that’ll be a huge confidence booster for our team.

“I’m pretty positive they weren’t too happy with the way they played. They can play better as a team, so we’re going to be ready for their best and we’re going to give our best and stay within our structure.”

Steve Mason will be in goal for Philadelphia.


Marc-Andre Fleury for the Penguins in Columbus, where Sergei Bobrovsky will return from his latest groin injury for the Blue Jackets.

Frederik Andersen for the Ducks in St. Louis, where Jake Allen will start again for the Blues.

Corey Crawford for the Blackhawks in Dallas, where Kari Lehtnonen is expected for the Stars.

— No official starter for the Coyotes in Calgary, where Joni Ortio will be in the Flames’ net.

Leafs recall another — this time, defenseman Rinat Valiev

Russia's Rinat Valiev, right, battles for the puck with Denmark's Oliver Bjorkstrand during the third period of a preliminary round game at the World junior hockey championships in Toronto on Friday, Dec. 26, 2014. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Chris Young)

The Toronto Maple Leafs could have another rookie in the lineup this weekend. This morning, they announced the recall of defenseman Rinat Valiev from the AHL.

Valiev has scored three goals with 18 assists in 54 games for the Marlies this season. The 20-year-old was drafted 68th overall by the Leafs in 2014. He represented Russia at the 2015 World Juniors.

According to CP’s Jonas Siegel, if Valiev plays Saturday against the Senators, he’ll become the ninth Leaf to make his NHL debut in 2015-16.

The other eight are William NylanderKasperi KapanenNikita SoshnikovZach Hyman,  Viktor Loov, Brendan LeipsicByron Froese, and Garret Sparks.

The Leafs, in case you hadn’t heard, are going through a bit of a rebuild.

Johns to make NHL debut, against his old team no less

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 26:  Stephen Johns shakes hands with team personnel after being drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in the second round during day two of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft at Staples Center on June 26, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Stephen Johns will make his NHL debut tonight for the Dallas Stars. And in an interesting twist of fate, he’ll do it against the team that drafted him, the Chicago Blackhawks.

“I’ve waited a long time for this day and I’m overly excited,” the 23-year-old defenseman told reporters this morning at American Airlines Center. “I just can’t wait.”

Johns was a second-round pick of the Blackhawks in 2010. He remained in Chicago’s organization until this past summer when he was dealt to the Stars as part of the Patrick Sharp trade.

“He plays the game hard,” Dallas GM Jim Nill said after acquiring Johns. “We’ve got a lot of skill in our lineup and we don’t have a lot of that presence. You need to have some of that size and different dimension in the back end and I think he brings that.”

After failing to make the Stars out of camp in September, Johns was assigned to the AHL’s Texas Stars, for whom he has four goals and 20 assists in 55 games this season.

Injuries to John Klingberg, Jason Demers, and Jordie Benn prompted the Stars to recall Johns on Wednesday.

Related: Johns believes he’s ready for the NHL