Benning: ‘In a perfect world,’ Canucks would like to take a D-man in first round

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The Vancouver Canucks are a curious case.

They’re in a playoff race, mostly because of a weakened Pacific Division, but it seems highly unlikely they could catch lightning in a bottle and make a run of any substance toward the Stanley Cup — if they get into the postseason at all.

Adding intrigue to their plight — trying to remain competitive while introducing younger players into the NHL roster — is the fact their blue line could use a significant upgrade.

Outside of their top three defensemen — Alex Edler, Chris Tanev and rookie Ben Hutton, who has been a pleasant surprise to this point in the season — there are question marks.

Matt Bartkowski, Alex Biega, Yannick Weber and Dan Hamhuis, currently on his way back from numerous facial fractures, are all pending unrestricted free agents at the end of this season.

Luca Sbisa was injured through December into January, and has the second lowest Corsi For percentage (42.2) on the team.

On the farm, they’ve got Jordan Subban — who has 23 points in 35 games — and Andrey Pedan and Ashton Sautner, who have all shown potential.

But there isn’t anyone on their team or in the system that stands out as that rare game-breaking defenseman, like an Aaron Ekblad, Erik Karlsson, Drew Doughty, P.K. Subban or Duncan Keith.

A higher pick at the 2016 draft could help that.

Not since 2005 have the Canucks taken a defenseman in the first round, according to their draft history on hockeydb.com. That year, they selected Luc Bourdon, whose life ended tragically at the age of 21.

Canucks general manager Jim Benning was a keen observer during Thursday’s Top Prospects Game in Vancouver, and as he told Sportsnet during the intermission, he had his eye on defensemen.

The event featured touted junior defensemen Jakob Chychrun, the second-ranked North American skater and a potential top-five pick, Olli Juolevi, who had nine assists in seven games for Finland at the world juniors, and Mikhail Sergachev, the 10th-ranked North American skater.

“I like our forward depth. I’m looking at defensemen tonight. I’ve got my eye on four or five D-men,” Benning told Sportsnet.

“We’re going to take the best player in the first round, but in a perfect world, we’d like to take a D-man.

“Our philosophy is we’re always going to take the best player in the first round. We’ll figure out the position, but having said that, the last little while we’ve taken a lot of forwards.

“We’ve got good forward depth. We’ve got to start building up our defensemen depth. But if it doesn’t happen in the first round, we’ll look to the other rounds to add D-men.”

Also of interest: He believes, as per his chat on Sportsnet, there will be a drop off right around the 15th pick, with the players going before that as those who could develop into top-six forwards or top-four defensemen.

Latest NHL players to leave bubbles: Capitals’ Eller, Canucks’ Ferland

Lars Eller Micheal Ferland leave NHL bubbles
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Whether it be injuries or the expected birth of children, NHL players are occasionally needing to leave the bubbles in Edmonton and/or Toronto. In the latest cases, Lars Eller (Washington Capitals) and Micheal Ferland (Vancouver Canucks) had to leave their respective NHL bubbles.

Capitals’ Eller leaves bubble because of expected birth of child

As noted, the Capitals announced that Lars Eller left the bubble as planned for the expected birth of his second child. This may not be the only Capitals player who will need to leave, as the Washington Post’s Samantha Pell reports that Carl Hagelin‘s family is expecting a child in September.

Obviously, the Capitals would need to perform well for that September situation to come into play.

On the other hand, they’ll wave goodbye to Eller for a while. The Capitals announced that Eller will go through quarantine protocols when he returns to Toronto.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Overall, it’s difficult to guess how much time Eller might miss. The Capitals have two more round-robin games on their schedule:

Thursday, Aug. 6: Capitals vs. Flyers, 4 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Sunday, Aug. 9:
Bruins vs. Capitals, TBD

After that, the Capitals jump into the First Round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs after an opponent is determined by re-seeding. Eller ranks as one of the Capitals’ more underrated players. He averaged a career-high 17:01 time on ice in 2019-20, contributing nice offense to go with stellar two-way play.

Along with Eller and possibly Hagelin, Blues forward Ivan Barbashev also left the bubble expecting the birth of a child. You see, NHL families tend to plan for August and to an extent September as usually a convenient time for “team-building.”

Ferland unfit to play in remaining Canucks series vs. Wild

Following a brutal 2019-20 season from a health standpoint, Micheal Ferland suffered another setback.

The Canucks announced that Ferland is “unfit to play” for the remainder of the team’s 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifier series against the Wild. It’s unclear when Ferland got hurt, but it likely didn’t help that he followed a season ravaged by concussions by fighting Marcus Foligno in Game 1:

Ferland also was fined, not suspended, for spearing Luke Kunin.

Yet, as eventful as Ferland’s reps have been during the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers, it’s fair to wonder how much of a loss he would be. Ferland only managed to appear in 14 regular season games for the Canucks in 2019-20. Ferland can be a useful power forward when healthy, but it almost feels wiser to grade him as an “Incomplete” for his debut Canucks season.

Again, Vancouver ruled him out for at least this best-of-five series against the Wild.

(7) Vancouver Canucks vs. (10) Minnesota Wild (Series tied 1-1)

Sunday, Aug. 2: Wild 3, Canucks 0 (recap)
Tuesday, Aug. 4: Canucks 4, Wild 3 (recap)
Thursday, Aug. 6: Canucks vs. Wild, 2:30 p.m. ET (live look-in coverage on NBCSN)
Friday, Aug. 7: Canucks vs. Wild*, TBD
Sunday, Aug. 9: Wild vs. Canucks*, TBD

MORE:
• 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Qualifiers schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Presidents’ Trophy winning Bruins lose chance at East’s top seed

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The Bruins’ loss Wednesday to the Lightning in their round-robin game gave us a little clarity into their future.

They remain on zero points through two games with one to go (Sunday vs. Washington). That means the 2019-2020 Presidents’ Trophy winners can finish no better than the No. 3 seed in the First Round of the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

Tyler Johnson‘s goal with 1:27 to go broke a 2-2 tie and helped Tampa to another victory. For Jon Cooper’s charges, that means the No. 1 seed remains up for grabs between them, the Capitals, and the Flyers. In their favor is the fact that they control their own destiny after taking maximum points through two games. A win over Philadelphia on Saturday would wrap up the top spot in the conference.

Current East standings
Tampa Bay Lightning (2-0-0, 4 points)
Philadelphia Flyers (1-0-0, 2 points)
Washington Capitals (0-0-1, 1 point)
Boston Bruins (0-2-0, 0 points)

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Suspension coming for Goodrow?

Lightning forward Barclay Goodrow may have earned himself a hearing with the NHL Department of Player Safety.

Midway through the third period, Goodrow caught Anders Bjork from the blindside and made contact with the head.

A charging minor was the call on the play. Bjork remained in the game.

How many games will Goodrow sit? One seems likely.

Ritchie really wanted his tooth

Bruins forward Nick Ritchie lost a tooth during a scrum with Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh. Once he realized he was missing a chiclet, he had to get it back. Minutes later, he went back onto the ice — while the Zamboni was doing work — to retrieve it.

He even got some help in his quest from Jaroslav Halak.

The tooth fairy must pay exceptionally well these days.

Eastern Conference round-robin schedule

Sunday, Aug. 2: Flyers 4, Bruins 1 (recap)
Monday, Aug. 3
: Lightning 3, Capitals 2 (SO) (recap)
Wednesday, Aug. 5: Lightning 3, Bruins 2
Thursday, Aug. 6: Capitals vs. Flyers, 4 p.m. ET, NBCSN
Saturday, Aug. 8: Flyers vs. Lightning, TBD
Sunday, Aug. 9: Bruins vs. Capitals, TBD

MORE:
2020 NHL Stanley Cup Qualifiers schedule

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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.

NHL schedule for 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers in league’s Return to Play

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It’s time to focus on the NHL games, including the 2020 NHL playoffs schedule. The 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers began on Saturday, Aug. 1 in the hub cities of Edmonton and Toronto.

The top four teams in both conference will play a three-game round robin for seeding in the First Round. The Stanley Cup Qualifiers will be best-of-5 series with the losing teams being entered into Phase 2 of the NHL Draft Lottery.

Below is a full 2020 NHL playoffs schedule of both the round-robin and the Stanley Cup Qualifiers.

EASTERN CONFERENCE (Scotiabank Arena)

Round-robin [Standings, scenarios]

Sunday, Aug. 2: Flyers 4, Bruins 1 (recap)
Monday, Aug. 3
:
Lightning 3, Capitals 2 (SO) (recap)
Wednesday, Aug. 5:
Lightning 3, Bruins 2 (recap)
Thursday, Aug. 6:
Capitals vs. Flyers, 4 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Saturday, Aug. 8:
Flyers vs. Lightning, TBD
Sunday, Aug. 9:
Bruins vs. Capitals, TBD

(5) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (12) Montreal Canadiens (Series tied 1-1)

Saturday, Aug. 1: Canadiens 3, Penguins 2 (recap)
Monday, Aug. 3: Penguins 3, Canadiens 1 (recap)
Wednesday, Aug. 5: Penguins vs. Canadiens, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Friday, Aug. 7: Penguins vs. Canadiens, 4 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Saturday, Aug. 8: Canadiens vs. Penguins*

(6) Carolina Hurricanes vs. (11) New York Rangers (CAR wins series 3-0)

Saturday, Aug. 1: Hurricanes 3, Rangers 2 (recap)
Monday, Aug. 3: Hurricanes 4, Rangers 1 (recap)
Tuesday, Aug. 4: Hurricanes 4, Rangers 1 (recap)

(7) New York Islanders vs. (10) Florida Panthers (NYI lead series 2-1)

Saturday, Aug. 1: Islanders 2, Panthers 1 (recap)
Tuesday, Aug. 4: Islanders 4, Panthers 2 (recap)
Wednesday, Aug. 5: Panthers 3, Islanders 2 (recap)
Friday, Aug. 7: Islanders vs. Panthers, 12 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Sunday, Aug. 9: Panthers vs. Islanders*

(8) Toronto Maple Leafs vs. (9) Columbus Blue Jackets (Series tied 1-1)

Sunday, Aug. 2: Blue Jackets 2, Maple Leafs 0 (recap)
Tuesday, Aug. 4: Maple Leafs 3, Blue Jackets 0 (recap)
Thursday, Aug. 6: Maple Leafs vs. Blue Jackets, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Friday, Aug. 7: Maple Leafs vs. Blue Jackets, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Sunday, Aug. 9: Blue Jackets vs. Maple Leafs*, TBD

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

WESTERN CONFERENCE (Rogers Place)

Round-robin [Standings, scenarios]

Sunday, Aug. 2: Avalanche 2, Blues 1 (recap)
Monday, Aug. 3: Golden Knights 4, Stars 3 (recap)
Wednesday, Aug. 5: Avalanche vs. Stars, 6:30 p.m. ET – (live look-in coverage on NBCSN)
Thursday, Aug. 6: Golden Knights vs. Blues, 6:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Saturday, Aug. 8: Golden Knights vs. Avalanche, TBD
Sunday, Aug. 9: Stars vs. Blues, TBD

(5) Edmonton Oilers vs. (12) Chicago Blackhawks (Series tied 1-1)

Saturday, Aug. 1: Blackhawks 6, Oilers 4 (recap)
Monday, Aug. 3: Oilers 6, Blackhawks 3 (recap)
Wednesday, Aug. 5: Oilers vs. Blackhawks, 10:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Friday, Aug. 7: Oilers vs. Blackhawks, 6:45 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Saturday, Aug. 8: Blackhawks vs. Oilers*, TBD

(6) Nashville Predators vs. (11) Arizona Coyotes (ARZ leads series 2-1)

Sunday, Aug. 2: Coyotes 4, Predators 3 (recap)
Tuesday, Aug. 4: Predators 4, Coyotes 2 (recap)
Wednesday, Aug. 5: Coyotes 4, Predators 1 (recap)
Friday, Aug. 7: Predators vs. Coyotes, 2:30 p.m. ET – (live look-in coverage on NBCSN)
Sunday, Aug. 9: Coyotes vs. Predators*, TBD

(7) Vancouver Canucks vs. (10) Minnesota Wild (Series tied 1-1)

Sunday, Aug. 2: Wild 3, Canucks 0 (recap)
Tuesday, Aug. 4: Canucks 4, Wild 3 (recap)
Thursday, Aug. 6: Canucks vs. Wild, 2:30 p.m. ET (live look-in coverage on NBCSN)
Friday, Aug. 7: Canucks vs. Wild, 10:45 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Sunday, Aug. 9: Wild vs. Canucks*, TBD

(8) Calgary Flames vs. (9) Winnipeg Jets (CGY leads series 2-1)

Saturday, Aug. 1: Flames 4, Jets 1 (recap)
Monday, Aug. 3: Jets 3, Flames 2 (recap)
Tuesday, Aug. 4: Flames 6, Jets 2 (recap)
Thursday, Aug. 6: Flames vs. Jets, 10:30 p.m. ET – CNBC
Saturday, Aug. 8: Jets vs. Flames*, TBD

* – if necessary

————

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.

Canadiens-Penguins stream: 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Qualifiers

Canadiens-Penguins stream
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NBC’s coverage of the NHL’s Return to Play continues with Wednesday’s Stanley Cup Qualifier matchup between the Canadiens and Penguins. Coverage begins at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Watch the Canadiens-Penguins Game 3 stream at 8 p.m. ET on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Sidney Crosby opened the scoring in the first period and Pittsburgh added two more goals late in the third, one from Jason Zucker and an empty-netter from Jake Guentzel, to even their series against Montreal.

After making 39 saves in Game 1, Carey Price was outstanding again on Monday, making 35 saves to keep the Canadiens within touching distance throughout the game. Price, the 2015 Vezina and Hart winner, has stopped 74 of 78 shots faced in this series.

Crosby has two goals in this series, scoring in each of the first two games. With his goal in Game 2, Crosby tied Gordie Howe for 18th all-time with 68 playoff goals. The only active player with more postseason goals is Crosby’s teammate, Patrick Marleau. The goal also gave Crosby 188 career playoff points, tying Joe Sakic and Doug Gilmour for eighth-most in history.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

WHAT: Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Montreal Canadiens
WHERE: Scotiabank Arena – Toronto
WHEN: Wednesday, August 5, 8 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
ON THE CALL: John Forslund, Mike Milbury, Brian Boucher
LIVE STREAM: You can watch the Canadiens-Penguins stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

(5) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (12) Montreal Canadiens (Series tied 1-1)

Saturday, Aug. 1: Canadiens 3, Penguins 2 (recap)
Monday, Aug. 3: Penguins 3, Canadiens 1 (recap)
Wednesday, Aug. 5: Penguins vs. Canadiens, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN (Livestream)
Friday, Aug. 7: Penguins vs. Canadiens, 4 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Saturday, Aug. 8: Canadiens vs. Penguins*

MORE:
2020 NHL Stanley Cup Qualifiers schedule