Jason Brough

AP

Trading Burrows and Hansen represents significant ‘shift’ for Canucks

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Ever since Jim Benning was named general manager in 2014, the Vancouver Canucks have been reluctant to embrace an aggressive rebuild.

But with the recent departures of Alex Burrows and Jannik Hansen, two of the few remaining holdovers from the good teams of the past, the winds have decidedly shifted for the club.

“I think that’s where we’re at as an organization,” said Benning, per The Province. “I think I’ve been patient with a lot of these players. They kind of went through and were part of those real good Canuck teams. Now, we need to shift our focus and get this next group of players up and going that we’re going to be competitive and win with.”

For trading Burrows and Hansen, the Canucks received a couple of talented prospects in forwards Jonathan Dahlen and Nikolay Goldobin. Those two will join a system that already included first-round picks Olli Juolevi, Brock Boeser and Jake Virtanen.

Vancouver, currently sitting 28th overall, is also in the running to draft a center like Nolan Patrick, Nico Hischier, or Gabriel Vilardi. Combine one of those three with 21-year-old Bo Horvat and the Canucks could have a pretty promising one-two punch down the middle.

To be sure, Vancouver may still be three or four years from being competitive again. The Sedins, 36, are only signed through next season and can’t carry a first line anymore. The way things are trending, veteran d-men Alex Edler and/or Chris Tanev could be traded to further stock the rebuild.

So, there will be growing pains. And lots more losing.

But these last few days have been encouraging for all the fans in Vancouver who’ve been pleading for management (and ownership) to stop trying to make the playoffs and start being realistic.

The future for the Canucks is looking a little brighter today.

It’s pretty far away, but it’s brighter.

Five straight wins have the Flames feeling confident

AP

The Calgary Flames, with their fifth straight win, took a big step last night on their way to clinching a playoff spot.

A 2-1 OT victory over the Kings at Scotiabank Saddledome put the Flames five points clear of the Blues, holders of the second wild-card spot in the West, and six points clear of L.A, just on the outside looking in.

In other words, it’s looking a lot like the Blues and Kings will battle down the stretch for the final playoff spot.

The Flames, as long as they don’t collapse, should be able to outlast at least one of St. Louis or L.A.

“We are confident, and we should be,” head coach Glen Gulutzan said, per the Calgary Herald. “We’ve been trying to build that up all season.”

The season, of course, did not start out well for the Flames. They were 5-10-1 after 16 games; they weren’t getting good goaltending from Brian Elliott; and Gulutzan’s new system was taking time to get used to.

Fast forward to the present and Elliott is finally starting to string together some solid performances. He registered a .922 save percentage in February. In four of his starts, he only allowed one goal.

Offensively, the Flames have been led by the resurgence of Johnny Gaudreau. The 23-year-old has eight points during the five-game winning streak, with two goals and six assists. He’s also a plus-7 over the same stretch, taking his season tally down to a somewhat more respectable minus-11.

standings

Pens recall Pouliot from AHL

AP

The Pittsburgh Penguins, with a game tonight in Chicago, have recalled defenseman Derrick Pouliot from the AHL.

No word why the move was made, but it’s worth noting that teams are limited to four recalls post-trade deadline, which is today at 3 p.m. ET. Called up this morning, Pouliot would not count as one of those four recalls.

The Pens are currently dealing with a number of injuries on their blue line. Olli Maatta and Trevor Daley are on IR, and Kris Letang is day-to-day with an upper-body injury.

The addition of Pouliot would appear to give the Pens eight healthy defensemen, including recent trade acquisition Ron Hainsey. Steven Oleksy was a scratch in last night’s 3-2 loss in Dallas.

Pouliot, 23, has only played seven NHL games this season, with no points registered.

Pre-game reading: Adding Shattenkirk means less power-play time for others

— Up top, Jeremy Roenick and Keith Jones discuss what Kevin Shattenkirk brings to Washington after yesterday’s big trade with the St. Louis Blues.

— Here’s Capitals GM Brian MacLellan on the acquisition: “When you bring in a player of this stature, there’s an excitement, an energy that goes throughout the room. Everybody gets pumped up for the last part of the season. They get excited. You can never tell what it does to the chemistry. … It changes roles a little bit. People get less ice time. People get less power play time.” Indeed, it will be interesting to see how the addition of Shattenkirk affects a team that already had two capable, right-shooting d-men in John Carlson and Matt Niskanen. There’s only so much PP time to go around, and those two will likely have to accept less now. File it under “a good problem to have.” (CSN Mid-Atlantic)

— The Blues traded Shattenkirk in large part because their GM, Doug Armstrong, didn’t believe his team was a top contender. That being said, Armstrong’s not giving up entirely on the season. “Everyone says Minnesota is a Cup contender. Everyone says Chicago is a Cup contender, based on what they do and with their experience. Last year at this deadline, everyone said St. Louis is a Cup contender. Now we are at the dark horse part of that. But dark horses win every once in a while, too.” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

— A list of the best trades that each NHL team has ever made. Plenty of goalies involved, from the Habs getting Ken Dryden to the Avs getting Patrick Roy. (ESPN)

— Speaking of hockey history, here’s a story about Ralph Slate, the man behind HockeyDB. “Slate’s love of hockey and history – and his tech savvy – underpins HockeyDB, which gets about 1.3 million unique visitors a month. What began as a curious college student’s attempt to locate the alumni of his school hockey team grew into a quest with no finish line.” (Globe and Mail)

— With six points in his last seven games, Bruins forward Ryan Spooner is loving life under Bruce Cassidy. “I felt like the last coach… he just didn’t really trust me. It might’ve been kind of on me not really playing to the potential that I have, but at the same time … I just don’t think that he really liked me as a player.” Spooner is, of course, talking about Claude Julien, who certainly did have an up-and-down relationship with the young, offensive-minded player.  (CSN New England)

Enjoy the games!

Rangers send Buchnevich to AHL

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The New York Rangers have assigned rookie forward Pavel Buchnevich to the AHL.

The move is likely related to the acquisition of Brendan Smith from Detroit. The Rangers needed to open up a roster spot, and Buchnevich can be sent down without waivers.

That being said, Buchnevich has just one assist in his last 12 games, and he’s been a healthy scratch a couple of times in the last week. So if he plays for Hartford, it could also be a move to get him back on the ice and, hopefully, bolster his confidence.

The 21-year-old Russian has six goals and nine assists in 26 NHL games this season.