Canucks make Malhotra healthy scratch for first time


According to Jim Jamieson of the Vancouver Province, Manny Malhotra will be a healthy scratch for the first time in his Canucks career tonight when Vancouver takes on Chicago at the United Center.

Malhotra, an excellent shut-down player last season, suffered a serious eye injury a year ago and missed much of his summer training due to several surgical procedures on the eye.

He’s struggled to regain last season’s high level, but has still been good in the face-off circle. He’s fifth in the NHL in face-off winning percentage, at 58.2 per cent. On Monday in Minnesota, Malhotra was three for six, all in the defensive zone, and lost a draw to Kyle Brodziak on a Wild power play just prior to Erik Christensen’s opening goal.

Malhotra said he was fine physically. “They’re just trying different things, giving guys some looks,” he said.

There are a few ways of looking at this lineup decision:

1) It was simply Malhotra’s turn, just like it was Mason Raymond’s turn on Tuesday. Raymond was a healthy scratch in Vancouver’s 2-0 loss to Minnesota — the first time in three years he’d been a healthy scratch — after going pointless in eight games, frustrating head coach Alain Vigneault.

2) This isn’t actually Malhotra’s first healthy scratch. Malhotra was held out of the lineup last week against Columbus and Phoenix for “personal reasons”, believed to be in relation to the one-year anniversary of his eye injury.

We say ‘believed’ because Malhotra wouldn’t discuss the situation.

“There’s no need to elaborate,” he said of his absence. “Things are fine and I’m ready to get back to work. I feel good. I’m ready to go.”

It’s possible Vancouver held Malhotra out of the lineup under the guise of “personal reasons” to prevent publicly embarrassing one of its alternate captains. Of course, this conspiracy theory is ripe for hole-poking. Why would they keep from embarrassing him then, only to embarrass him a week later?

And really, how tumultuous would scratching an alternate captain be? Dale Hunter’s benched Mike Knuble a whole bunch of times, and those two seem to get along great.

Glencross has goals in seven straight games

Curtis Glencross extended his goal scoring streak to an incredible seven games as the Calgary Flames earned a 4-3 victory over the Minnesota Wild on Sunday.

The first 40 minutes of action were relatively uneventful. Jarome Iginla scored a goal at 9:31 of the first period and for most of the contest, the Flames lead stayed at 1-0. Things heated up in the third period, with the Wild and Flames combining for six goals.

Calgary’s Sven Baertschi set the tone for the period by netting his first career NHL goal just 1:43 minutes into the third. Minnesota’s Erik Christensen responded with two quick goals to tie the game, before Glencross found the back of the net. You can take a look at the game’s highlights, including Glencross’ goal below.

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Glencross set a new career-high with his 25th goal and he later tied his career-high of 43 points with an assist on Olli Jokinen’s game-winner.

This was Calgary’s third straight win as they fight tooth and nail for a playoff spot in the Western Conference. They’ll try and extend their winning streak in a critical match against the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday. In Minnesota, the situation has gotten dire. The Wild have now dropped six of their last seven contests and are now all-but out of the hunt for a playoff spot.

Wild get Christensen from Rangers for Wellman


The Minnesota Wild just became a shootout powerhouse, acquiring forward Erik Christensen in a trade with the New York Rangers.

The Wild also received a conditional seventh-round draft pick, sending forward Casey Wellman to New York in return.

Christensen, 28, has appeared in just 20 games for the Rangers. He recently spent two weeks in the AHL on a conditioning stint. The 2002 Penguins draft pick (69th overall) is perhaps best known for his shootout prowess, scoring 24 times on 46 career attempts (52.2%). Only eight players have more shootout goals than Christensen.

Wellman, 24, will reportedly be assigned to the Rangers’ AHL team in Connecticut.

Rangers might ask Wolski to accept AHL conditioning stint

Wojtek Wolski is healthy and ready to play hockey again. Just one problem – the Rangers keep winning and coach John Tortorella doesn’t want to mess with the lineup.

Wolski, 25, has appeared in just six games for the Rangers this season. He had surgery for a sports hernia in early November and hasn’t played since.

Today, Tortorella told reporters the Rangers might ask Wolski and forward Erik Christensen if they’d accept conditioning stints with Connecticut of the AHL as a way to get some game action.

Wolski’s $3.8 million cap hit is considerable for a player that’s watching from the press box. There are probably Rangers fans that wish he’d be sent to the minors for longer than a conditioning stint.

Rangers get healthy, roster shakeup looms


These are good times for the New York Rangers.

Prior to the Christmas break, the Rangers moved into top spot in the Atlantic Division, a position that’s been monopolized by the Flyers and Penguins this season.

Now, according to Larry Brooks of the New York Post, the Blueshirts are about to get healthier.

Wojtek Wolski, out since Oct. 27 with a sports hernia, is expected to be ready by the end of this week. Marc Staal, who hasn’t played since Feb. 22 after suffering a concussion, could be cleared for contact this week and could make his season debut within the next two weeks (PHT notes: Yes, that’s a lot of “coulds”.)

Brooks also notes that Michael Sauer, sidelined since Dec. 5 with post-concussion syndrome, “seems to be improving” — though the organization hasn’t offered anything official regarding his health.

These are big developments on two fronts. One, New York is getting bodies back as the Winter Classic draws closer — which is in direct contrast to the Flyers, who have been ravaged by injury (though they did just get Claude Giroux back in the lineup).

Two, it presents some questions for head coach John Tortorella. Getting Wolski back will likely push New York’s extra forwards — Sean Avery and Erik Christensen, neither of whom play much — deeper into oblivion. Avery’s already expressed frustration over sitting out and Christensen can’t be happy with his role, having only dressed in four of New York’s 12 games this month.

There’s also the question of when to get Staal back into the lineup. He’s said he’d like to return in time for the Winter Classic, but neither he nor the team wants to risk a potential recovery setback. That said, the Rangers blueline is rather thin with Steve Eminger out (separated shoulder) and Jeff Woywitka on the limp. In their last game before the Christmas break, Torts went almost exclusively with four D as Michael Del Zotto, Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh and Anton Stralman all played over 24 minutes in a 4-2 win over Philly.