NHL

Canucks’ Gudbranson suspended one game for boarding Vatrano

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Vancouver Canucks defenseman Erik Gudbranson will miss Friday’s game against the Buffalo Sabres after he was suspended one game for boarding Frank Vatrano of the Boston Bruins.

The hit occurred early in the first period during Thursday’s 6-3 Bruins victory. Gudbranson was given a majors for boarding and fighting, along with a game misconduct. The Bruins would take advantage with three power play goals. Vatrano would retun to the game later in the period.

Here’s the Department of Player Safety’s explanation:

Look at many of the suspensions the NHL’s DoPS has handed out for boarding and it’s the same thing over and over again. The suspended player has time to make a better decision on a hit, but fails to do so. Here, Gudbranson could have changed his angle, minimized contact with Vatrano or tie him up along the boards instead of plastering him into the glass.

Gudbranson will see $18,817.20 of his salary go to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Virtanen eyeing roster spot with Canucks

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Jake Virtanen is hoping his hard work over the summer translates into a roster spot with the Vancouver Canucks this season.

The 6-foot-1, 212-pound winger spent the offseason focused on getting his body right to make the jump to the NHL this season.

“For me, just obviously getting stronger and losing a lot of body fat was important,” Virtanen told The Vancouver Sun. “I’ve put in a lot of hard work this summer and I think so far it has paid off.

“It’s obviously in the back of my mind that I could be on the Canucks this year as a rookie. It’s pretty cool. But you just have to take things day by day and not look ahead too far.”

Shoulder surgery limited the Canucks’ 2014 first-round pick (6th overall) to 50 games with the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen last season. Virtanen registered 21 goals and 31 assists during the regular season and added 13 points in 14 playoff games. He also helped Team Canada win a gold medal at the 2015 world juniors.

Following the WHL playoffs, Virtanen joined the AHL’s Utica Comets for the Calder Cup playoffs where he registered one assist in 10 games.

With the likes of Sven Baertschi, Ronalds Kenins, Nicklas Jensen and Hunter Shinkaruk all battling for roster spots, Virtanen could be in tough to make the Canucks out of camp.

However, GM Jim Benning likes what he sees from the 19-year-old.

“We’ve talked to Jake,” Benning said. “There’s no pressure on him to do something he’s not capable of doing. He has the physical skills — we all know that. And he’s worked hard to get himself into the physical shape to play against men. If he’s ready and he can help our team win, then we’ll figure out a way for him to get into the lineup.”

Related: Linden: Canucks summer moves about ‘long-term vision’

Linden: Canucks summer moves about ‘long-term vision’

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The Vancouver Canucks have certainly had their critics this summer, but president Trevor Linden insists everything is going according to plan.

“There’s no question that, after seeing things for a year, I knew we had to make some changes and get to a better place,” Linden told the Vancouver Province. “There were things I wasn’t happy with. I knew we had to do some restructuring and put new processes in place.

“That’s what I’ve spent the last month doing, and I’m really excited about the changes we’ve made. Whether they show up in wins and losses this season, I don’t know, but this is a long-term vision.”

Convincing others that his and Canucks GM Jim Benning’s vision is the right one though will take some doing. After all, Benning got booed by season ticket holders when he revealed that he could have traded Ryan Miller, but opted to deal Eddie Lack instead (that trade came with a return of two picks — third and seventh rounders). There’s been a number of other divisive moves in Vancouver, from giving Luca Sbisa and Derek Dorsett’s significant contracts to the acquisition and five-year, $21.875 million signing of “foundation piece” Brandon Sutter.

How those moves work out will go a long way towards determining Benning and Linden’s popularity in the short-term. However, if Vancouver is to be successful, it will need to see results when it comes to the drafting and developing of prospects. That was an issue for the Canucks for years beginning with the start of the cap era, but Bo Horvat’s solid rookie season might someday be viewed as a turning point.

“To me, the two most important things moving forward are the amateur scouting side and the player development side, and there are many aspects to player development,” Linden said. “There’s strength and conditioning, there’s sports science, there’s the medical side, nutrition, and they all have to be integrated.

“The only way we’re going to get better is to draft and develop our players. Then we have to do a good job of developing them and getting them here as quickly as possible. That takes up most of my time.”

So for now the Canucks still have a pretty old core, but perhaps in a few years the franchise will start to see the rewards of Linden’s focus on drafting and developing. In the end, the work he’s doing there could pay far greater dividends than the more high profile trades and signings Vancouver has recently engaged in.

Seidenberg says trade rumors were ‘a slap in the face’

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Suffice to say Dennis Seidenberg wasn’t happy about hearing his name in trade talks this summer.

“If I had heard it from the GM then I would have been concerned, but the thing that bothered me was that people even talked about it. That’s kind of a slap in the face. It means you’re not playing your best, and you obviously want to play to a level where people don’t question you,” Seidenberg told the Boston Herald. “On the other hand, you have to focus on your own game and not worry about what people say. If it comes from the top, then you have to be worried about it, but I’ve never heard anything.

“I’ve read it and I saw it, but at the end of the day, I have to focus on what I have to do.”

Seidenberg, 34, is coming off an up-and-down campaign, his first full season since tearing his ACL in ’13-14. His play, age and cap hit — $4 million through 2018 — led many to speculate he could be on his way out of town, especially with the B’s pressed so close to the cap ceiling.

Trade fires were further stoked when, just prior to March’s trade deadline, Seidenberg said he’d waive his no-trade clause if asked. A few months later, he again responded to trade rumblings, this time insisting he wanted to stay in Boston.

Since then, much has changed on the Bruins’ defense.

Dougie Hamilton was traded to Calgary, Matt Bartkowski signed in Vancouver and when the dust settled, Seidenberg emerged as a key component of a defense that looks to be comprised of himself, Zdeno Chara, Torey Krug, Adam McQuaid, Kevan Miller and Matt Irwin.

So now, the veteran German rearguard can focus on taking those trade rumors and using them as fuel for a bounce-back campaign.

“You never like people to write those kinds of things about you,” he said. “It just means that you have to work harder and do better.”

Lucic jokes about running through Rask ‘like I did (to) another goalie’

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Milan Lucic won’t get a chance to play against his former teammates in Boston until Feb. 9, but when that game finally happens, it should be a fun one to watch. If Lucic ends up delivering a big hit in that game, it will get plenty of attention.

The question is who would be the player unlucky enough to be on the receiving end of such a blow? In reality, it will be dictated by circumstances, if it happens at all. While the Boston Bruins decided to part ways with Lucic this summer by shipping him to the Los Angeles Kings, he certainly has no ill will towards the Bruins players. In fact, when pressed on TSN 1040 in Vancouver to pick someone he would want to target, he was reluctant to do so.

Finally he offered up his friend, goaltender Tuukka Rask by jokingly saying that he would “maybe run through him like I did (to) another goalie that I ran into before.”

It seems fair to assume that he was referencing his hit on Ryan Miller back in 2011:

Of course, Miller now plays for the Canucks, giving the fact that he brought it up on a Vancouver radio station another dimension. Lucic, who is from Vancouver, is used to being part of the rivalry between the Bruins and Canucks. Now that he’s no longer part of that, his games against his hometown team might have a different feel to them.

You can listen to the full interview here.