Jason Brough

Brandon Sutter
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All signs point to Brandon Sutter returning Tuesday for Canucks

Expect to see Brandon Sutter back in Vancouver’s lineup Tuesday at home versus Nashville. The Canucks announced this morning that Mike Zalewski had been sent back to AHL Utica. They had to do that to make room for Sutter on the 23-man roster.

Sutter hasn’t played since Nov. 10. The 26-year-old center had sports-hernia surgery shortly thereafter.

The Canucks will still be without number-one center Henrik Sedin against the Preds; he’s expected to return sometime after the All-Star break. But Sutter should help a team that’s been forced the past few games to go with a 19-year-old, Jared McCann, and a 20-year-old, Bo Horvat, at first- and second-line center, respectively.

Sutter had a respectable four goals and four assists in 16 games before being placed on injured reserve, but it was his defensive abilities that the Canucks missed most while he was out.

Related: Desjardins sticks up for Horvat — ‘You’ve got to remember, Bo’s 20’

Varlamov, Stempniak and Elliott are NHL’s three stars of the week

Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov makes a glove save against the Anaheim Ducks during the first period of an NHL preseason hockey game Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2015, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)
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Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov, Devils winger Lee Stempniak and Blue goalie Brian Elliott have been named the NHL’s three stars for the past week.

From NHL.com:

Varlamov posted a 4-0-0 record with a 0.99 goals-against average and .972 save percentage to lift the Avalanche (26-21-3, 55 points) into the first Wild Card spot in the Western Conference.

Stempniak shared the League lead with four goals in three games (4-1-5) to propel the Devils (25-19-5, 55 points) into the final Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference.

Elliott went 2-1-1 with a 1.48 goals-against average and .955 save percentage to backstop the Blues (28-16-8, 64 points) within one point of second place in the Central Division.

You may recall that Varlamov did not start the season well. He had an .889 save percentage in October and an .885 mark in November.

“We just need more from him,” Patrick Roy said after the first two months. “He’s our No. 1 guy and we’re behind him, but we need, we expect more from him.”

Varlamov responded. His save percentage was .942 in December and it’s .926 in January.

Escrow went up…again

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 13:  Don Fehr, executive director of the National Hockey League Players Association meets with the media at the Marriott Marquis Times Square on September 13, 2012 in New York City. Joining him from left to right is Ruslan Fedotenko, Henrik Lundqvist, Zdeno Chara and Sidney Crosby.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Escrow has risen from 16 percent to 18 percent, according to multiple reports.

No surprise there, given the Canadian dollar’s plunge. With seven of the NHL’s 30 teams in Canada, there was no way league revenues weren’t going to be affected. Some had predicted escrow would go up even more.

Despite the fact it’s not the owners’ fault that the oil market crashed, taking the loonie down with it, the players won’t be happy to have almost a fifth of what they expected to earn withheld from their paychecks. While some of that significant chunk could be returned at a later date, there’s no guarantee that it will be.

In a related story, click here to read a column in the Seattle Times, with the headline: “Canada’s falling dollar could be raising hopes for a Seattle NHL expansion team.”

Also related, the NHL’s executive committee held its “special” meeting on expansion last week:

can

Related: To understand escrow issue, consider Duncan Keith

Jackets say Bobrovsky didn’t return too early from groin injury

Sergei Bobrovsky
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Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen insists that Sergei Bobrovsky was not rushed back from his latest groin injury.

“He was fully healed, with full strength, full range of motion,” Kekalainen told the Columbus Dispatch over the weekend. “Everything was back to normal. In everybody’s mind who has worked with him, he was not coming back too early at all.”

But it’s understandable why people would wonder. Bobrovsky has suffered yet another groin strain. The 27-year-old with the big contract is out indefinitely.

The Dispatch spoke to a specialist in sports-related injuries for its story, and the good news is that Dr. Randy Wroble sees “no reason to think this is going to end” Bobrovsky’s career.

Just don’t expect the Jackets to have their starting goalie back anytime soon. It’s not like the playoffs are a factor for this team, and this time, according to Kekalainen, they’re going to be even more cautious than the last time.

Surging Sharks have made a big move up the standings

San Jose Sharks' Chris Tierney (50) smiles after scoring a goal as Arizona Coyotes' Nicklas Grossmann (2), of Sweden, Michael Stone, right, and Viktor Tikhonov, of Russia, look for the puck during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
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The San Jose Sharks still haven’t lost a game in regulation since being called out on this here blog. They won again last night — a 3-1 victory on the road in Arizona — improving their record to 6-0-1 in their last seven.

The Sharks are now second in the Pacific Division. Just two weeks ago, they were second to last, ahead of only Edmonton.

Beating the Coyotes was especially big, given Arizona is one of the teams that’s competing for a playoff spot in the division. The Sharks and Coyotes play each other four more times this season.

“It’s going to be a long season series versus them, and this was a good way to start off,” forward Chris Tierney told CSN California.

Another team the Sharks may have to fend off is Vancouver. They play the Canucks five more times this season. In fact, they play them five times in just over a month, first on Feb. 28 then for a fifth time on March 31. That’s five meetings in a span of 33 days.

Anyway, here’s what the standings look like today:

standings

You’ll note that only two teams, the Kings and the Sharks, have a positive goal differential.

In the past two seasons, only one team — the 2013-14 Detroit Red Wings — has made the playoffs with a negative goal differential.

San Jose hosts Minnesota Saturday, Los Angeles Sunday and Colorado Monday. After that, it’s the All-Star break, followed by a tough four-game trip through Anaheim, St. Louis, Nashville, and Chicago.