Canucks GM: Daniel Sedin is on track for first round return


It’s easy – almost natural – for people to be negative about the Canucks, especially if those people are located in Vancouver. When you look at the situation out West, it’s not crazy to call them elite, although having a healthy Daniel Sedin is a big part of that puzzle. “Healthy” might be a relative term, yet Canucks GM Mike Gillis told the Vancouver Sun that the star winger is making progress toward a return by the first round of the playoffs.

“It’s risky to make projections with these things because one day the player just may not feel right, but he’s going in the right direction,” Gillis said. “He’s feeling a little better each day. We’re hopeful if things keep going the way they are that he’ll be available [for the first round].”

Sportsnet’s Dan Murphy provides more specific details about his recovery process.

As for Daniel Sedin, he was spotted at the rink on Wednesday. I’m told Daniel is feeling better than he did the days right after Duncan Keith’s elbow knocked him out of the line-up with a concussion. Daniel is still suffering from headaches, however, and cannot exercise at all until he is symptom free.

Canucks fans and the team should be heartened to hear that Daniel Sedin is making progress, although to steal a phrase from Gillis, it’s probably risky to assume that he’s a lock to be in the lineup once the first round begins.

Wings notes: Kindl returns, Lidstrom game-time decision, Ericsson back Monday

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Things are getting better for the Detroit Red Wings, and quickly at that.

Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press reports that a trio of defensemen are getting healthy and two of them could suit up for tonight’s game against Carolina. Jakub Kindl will definitely be back in tonight’s lineup while captain Nicklas Lidstrom will be a game-time decision. Jonathan Ericsson is looking like he’ll be back for Detroit on Monday night.

If Lidstrom can’t go tonight, rookie Brendan Smith will get the start instead. Kindl’s return made it possible for Detroit to send Doug Janik back to the AHL. Detroit has been without Lidstrom and Ericsson since February 25 while Kindl has been gone since March 4.

Ty Conklin will get the start in tonight’s game. He’s coming off a stellar, but losing, effort against the Rangers on Wednesday.

Kings GM doesn’t expect Simon Gagne back this season


The Los Angeles Kings are red-hot right now, enjoying a run that earned them a slim Pacific Division lead. The addition of former Philadelphia Flyers Jeff Carter and Mike Richards has played a role in that, but one cannot help but wonder if another former high-scoring Philly forward would really put them over the top.

Unfortunately for the Kings, GM Dean Lombardi doesn’t believe that Simon Gagne will be back for them this season, according to a report by Rich Hammond.

Lombardi said that he “doubts” that the dangerous winger could return from concussion issues that have sidelined him since Dec. 26. That’s the sad story of Gagne’s career, really, injuries – particularly concussions – have short-circuited what would otherwise be a borderline All-Star producer’s effectiveness.

It’s not exactly as if the Kings could plead ignorance about his injury history, as that’s the neon-light-obvious reason why an otherwise potent player attracted little interest on the free agent market.

If Kings fans want a glimmer of hope, Hammond points out that Gagne is being evaluated on “a weekly basis,” so perhaps he could bounce back if the Kings manage to stick around in the playoffs for a while. Both of those matters seem like big “ifs,” but Gagne being healthy might actually be less likely.

Radim Vrbata expected to return for Coyotes tonight

For whatever reason, Radim Vrbata just works in Phoenix. He currently leads the Coyotes with 30 goals this season and even drew some dark horse All-Star chatter, so the scrappy team must be delighted to have him back, which Dave Vest reports is quite likely.

Vrbata is one of the Coyotes who’ve been fighting off flu-like symptoms, but with captain Shane Doan out three games because of a suspension, they’ll welcome him back that much more.

The ninth-ranked Coyotes are about an hour away from hosting the seventh place Colorado Avalanche on Thursday, so getting Vrbata back is a huge deal for a team that showed serious resilience in a comeback-heavy road trip.

Jamie Benn’s “feeling fine, normal” after brutal night


Believe it or not, Dallas Stars standout Jamie Benn told ESPN’s Mark Stepneski that he’s “feeling fine, normal” after taking a jarring amount of abuse on Tuesday night. In fact, Stars coach Glen Gulutzan indicates that he won’t miss a game.

The headline hit was Shane Doan’s elbow, but Benn took an absolute beating from the Phoenix Coyotes. Some even wondered if the Coyotes were “head hunting” the first-time All-Star.

Just looking at the most bombastic blows after the Doan hit, defenseman Derek Morris clobbered him and Antoine Vermette landed a check that forced Benn to spend some time in the Stars’ tunnel, which the NBC camera crews caught in somewhat disturbing detail. (There might even be a collision or two that slipped under the radar; he seriously took a beating.)

Considering that litany of scary moments, it was hard not to wonder if Benn hit his latest rough patch of injuries. (He’s had his fair share of bad luck this season, after all.)

That’s either not the case or Benn refuses to be sidelined during a crucial stretch for the Stars, who remain atop the Pacific Division but could very well miss the playoffs altogether if they slump badly.

It’s showings of toughness like this – not just his world class skills – that make the pending restricted free agent seem worth whatever he’ll receive in his next contract.

If he makes it that far, that is.