Jason Brough


After big win, Weight calls Isles a ‘confident team that has something to prove’

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The New York Islanders, with a new coach, are suddenly back in the playoff race.

The Isles beat the Blue Jackets, 4-2, last night in Brooklyn. They’re now 3-0-1 under interim bench boss Doug Weight. And don’t forget, they won their last game with Jack Capuano in charge, a 4-0 victory in Boston on Jan. 16.

“We looked like a confident team that has something to prove and somewhere to go,” Weight said last night, per Newsday. “Top to bottom, one of our best efforts of the year.”

With their surge, the Isles (20-17-9) have moved to within four points of Toronto for the second wild-card spot in the East. That’s still a significant gap to close, but their chances of making the playoffs have risen to almost 30 percent, according to Sports Club Stats.

Less than two weeks ago, their chances were pegged at just 3 percent.

The biggest key has been goaltending. Thomas Greiss has a .960 save percentage in his last four starts, and Jean-Francois Berube won a game himself, stopping 34 of 36 shots in a 4-2 win over the Kings on Saturday.

But it’s not just one thing that’s made the difference. The Isles are also getting more goals from more forwards, and the defensemen are playing their part as well.

“Our D did a great job for us (against Columbus),” said forward Josh Bailey. “They were in and out of our zone quick.”

Looking ahead, the Isles play once more before the All-Star break: Thursday at home to Montreal.

Once the break is over, another good team pays a visit: the Washington Capitals on Jan. 31.

Looking even further ahead, the Isles have a very road-heavy schedule for the rest of the season. They only have 14 home games left, with 22 away. That includes a whopping nine-game stretch of road games from Feb. 21 to March 11.

So it’s going to be tough.

But we’ve seen a couple of teams make big second-half runs in the last few years. The Flyers did it in 2014, the Senators in 2015.

Now the Islanders will try to pull off a similar feat.

Canucks can move into playoff spot with win over lowly Avs

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The Vancouver Canucks have a prime opportunity to pick up four points and head into the All-Star break in a playoff spot.

Tonight, the Canucks are in Denver to take on the NHL’s worst team. Tomorrow, they’re in Glendale to play the NHL’s second-worst team.

Talk about an easy back-to-back, right?

Not so fast.

The Avalanche and Coyotes may see a prime opportunity themselves. Vancouver has just five wins away from home this season. In fact, the Canucks’ 5-14-3 road record is the worst in the league. Only a 17-6-3 mark at Rogers Arena has kept them in the race.

The last time the Canucks won a road game was Dec. 31 in Edmonton. Sunday in Chicago, they had a chance to at least get to overtime, but after battling back from a 2-0 deficit, a late letdown cost them and they fell, 4-2, in regulation.

“It’s really a kick in the teeth to come all the way back and lose on a fairly fluky kind of play,” goalie Ryan Miller told reporters. “We got ourselves back in the game in the second and I think we carried it into the third. Just really disappointed to not get a point at least out of here, especially with that effort.”

With a win tonight, the Canucks would leapfrog idle Los Angeles and Calgary into the second wild-card spot. All three teams play road games tomorrow before the break. The Kings are in Carolina, the Flames are in Ottawa, and, as mentioned, the Canucks are in Arizona.


Duchene ‘started laughing’ when people wondered if he’d been traded


Matt Duchene was sick.

Really sick.

That’s why he missed Monday’s game against San Jose.

And even as he battled a bad stomach virus, he got a good laugh that so many people thought he might have been traded.

“I started laughing,” Duchene said, per the Denver Post. “I never thought of it at the time. I thought if we announce that I was sick, there wouldn’t be any questions about it. But I guess there was. I mean, I understand it. It’s part of the business and it’s something that may or may not happen at some point here. It was not a big deal. I just kind of laughed it off. It’s to be expected, I guess.”

Indeed it is. Things have gotten so bad for the Colorado Avalanche (13-30-2) that it’s now expected that Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, and/or Tyson Barrie will be traded. It may not happen before the March 1 deadline, but at some point fairly soon, a big move seems inevitable.

Read more: Fixing the Avs’ defense through trades will prove tough

Duchene, 26, leads the Avs with 15 goals. He scored a career-high 30 last season. And with a reasonable cap hit of $6 million through 2018-19, he represents a significant chip for GM Joe Sakic to play.

Duchene will be back in the lineup tonight at home to Vancouver.

Related: Sakic doesn’t plan on trading MacKinnon, Rantanen or Jost

Blues send Copley back to AHL, but Allen may not start Thursday


The St. Louis Blues have re-assigned goalie Pheonix Copley to the AHL.

Copley only made one start during his call-up, and it didn’t go so well. Saturday in Winnipeg, he allowed five goals on 29 shots in a 5-3 loss to the Jets.

That trip to Winnipeg didn’t have Jake Allen on it, and for a very unusual reason. Allen had been left in St. Louis to “reset” mentally after a string of poor performances.

Things went much better for the Blues last night in Pittsburgh, where Carter Hutton shut out the Penguins, 3-0.

It was originally planned that Allen would start Thursday in Minnesota. But not surprisingly, after the shutout win in Pittsburgh, head coach Ken Hitchcock said he might change the plan and stick with Hutton.


With big plans ahead, the Sens hire a new president and CEO


With no less than the future of the franchise at stake, the Ottawa Senators today announced the appointment of Tom Anselmi as the team’s president and CEO.

Anselmi will succeed Cyril Leeder, whom the club said will be stepping down.

Anselmi, most recently the president of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, is an experienced executive, and the Sens have a lot of things to get done in the next few years.

Chief among those things is getting a new arena built on LeBreton Flats

“Tom’s distinguished career in sports and his previous senior executive roles with two other Canadian NHL clubs will be invaluable as we continue our efforts to build an organization that will prepare us for the future and the exciting opportunities which lie ahead,” said Senators owner Eugene Melnyk in a statement.

This morning, Melnyk insisted to reporters that the change had nothing to do with attendance. But the fact remains, Sens attendance has lagged, and Melnyk has made no secret his frustration with the small crowds.

Last night, 16,683 was the announced attendance at Canadian Tire Centre to watch the Sens beat the Washington Capitals, 3-0.

Canadian Tire Centre, which opened in 1996, was built in the Ottawa suburb of Kanata, and Melnyk believes its location hurts attendance. Hence, the plan to build a new downtown arena. Hence, the hiring of Anselmi to oversee that plan.

Related: Melnyk says he won’t sell the Senators ‘at any price’