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Northwest: Taking a closer look at the rumors

by Roger Phillips
The NHL's trade deadline is March 4 at noon ET. But why wait until then to know what's going to happen? Let's take a look at rumors we've seen recently involving three Northwest Division teams. If you believe these to be true – and that's a big "if" -- here's what we can look forward to in less than a week:

Colorado -- The Avalanche probably will miss the playoffs. This puts them in the position of sellers. They really need a top-notch goalie. Scrappy forward Ian Laperriere isn't going to net them the next Patrick Roy, but it could be that he'll be sent packing, a valuable veteran addition to some team's postseason run. … The Ottawa Sun (always a rich repository of rumors) says the Canadiens may be taking a long look at Ryan Smyth of the Avalanche. Keep in mind Smyth's contract includes a no-movement clause. … Defenseman Jordan Leopold's name is popping up in lots of rumors.

Vancouver -- The Buffalo news suggests the Canucks could take a run at Sabres center Tim Connolly. Considering all the not-so-nice things Canucks coach Alain Vigneault has been saying lately about third-line center Kyle Wellwood, it's pretty easy to imagine Vancouver looking for depth down the middle. … The Canucks' big issue is trying to work out deals with the Sedin twins and Alex Burrows, all prospective unrestricted free agents.

Edmonton -- Oilers coach Craig MacTavish and General Manager Kevin Lowe won a Stanley Cup with Alexei Kovalev with the Rangers in 1994. The Edmonton Journal imagines that Kovalev – embattled in Montreal – might look good in an Oilers uniform. … The Oilers reportedly are interested in Senators defenseman Christoph Schubert. Likewise, the Senators are interested in Oilers defenseman Ladislav Smid. … The Oilers might find takers for disappointing Erik Cole. If they trade him to Boston, goes one report, they might get two youngsters, forward Vladimir Sobotka and defenseman Matt Lashoff. … The Oilers want a rental defenseman, though not someone as pricey as Florida's Jay Bouwmeester, who is increasingly unlikely to be dealt as the Panthers rise in the East standings. … The Oilers scouted a recent Blue Jackets-Blues game.

Now that we've touched this topic, we will throw in one small caveat: There tend to be 500 rumors per actual deal each year at this time of the season in the NHL. So if you take any of these rumors to your local insolvent bank, you do so at your own risk.

Forget the trade deadline – The Canucks added two superstars well before the deadline without giving anything up when they signed Mats Sundin and when Roberto Luongo returned from his groin injury.

The Canucks got off to a slow start with Sundin, but looking back on it, this should have come as little surprise. It's not always easy to immediately integrate a major addition into a lineup. And on top of that, Sundin had to get into game shape.

Lately, though, he's rounded into form – most conspicuously in Saturday's return to Toronto, when Sundin scored the shootout winner.

"You dream about getting chances like that, to be the deciding shooter, have a breakaway at the end of game or an overtime goal," Sundin told reporters after the game. "I was probably crying a little bit, 13 years in this city with a team that had a lot of ups and downs, there were a lot of emotions.

"I thought they really showed me respect. It was amazing. No matter how this game would have ended, it would never change my memories with the Leafs, it was always going to be the same."

The win in Toronto gave Vancouver eight wins in its last nine games, though they fell Tuesday night at Montreal.

Interestingly, a team that might benefit from the Canucks' rise is the Flames. They almost certainly aren't going to catch Detroit or San Jose for first in the Western Conference.

The Canucks' hot streak may provide something for the Flames to focus on in the final weeks of the regular season. The Flames were fortunate to escape Edmonton on Saturday with a shootout win against their provincial rivals. They tied the score late in regulation, then won in the shootout.

"It's a big win for our team," defenseman Dion Phaneuf told reporters. "They're not always going to be pretty but especially on the road against a team that played very hard … the effort was there but it was not pretty. But you've got to win those ones, too."

Of concern to the Flames is a mounting injury list that recently has included Mark Giordano (upper body), Rene Bourque (ankle), Andre Roy (concussion) and Daymond Langkow (hand). They continued their winning ways Tuesday, beating Columbus.

Ailing ironman -- Until Saturday night, Minnesota's Andrew Brunette had played nearly 200 more consecutive games than any other player in the NHL. The streak ended at 509 games in a 5-2 win against the Red Wings when Brunette couldn't answer the bell because of lingering knee problems.

Florida defenseman Jay Bouwmeester is now the NHL's reigning ironman. The Canucks' Hendrik Sedin is not far behind Bouwmeester.

"He's a very determined player," Wild coach Jacques Lemaire told the Minneapolis Star Tribune when asked about Brunette. "He wants to stay in the lineup as much as he can."

Brunette, 35, broke into the NHL in 1995-96 with the Capitals. He's also played for the Predators, Thrashers and Avalanche, and is in his second stint with the Wild. He's been durable throughout his career.

He's appeared in 77 games twice in his career, in 81 games twice, and before this season, he'd appeared in all 82 games every season from 2002-03 to 2007-08. He'd last missed a game on New Year's Eve 2001 with a bruised shoulder, but he was back for the following game.

Brunette started a new streak when he played in the Wild's 2-1 shootout loss Tuesday to Los Angeles.

Also ailing -- It’s easy to look at teams like the Avalanche and Wild and wonder where they’d be in the standings if players like Stastny, Sakic and Minnesota’s Marian Gaborik had been healthy all year.

The Oilers, however, are hurting, too. They’re missing skilled offensive defensemen Lubomir Visnovsky (out for the year with a shoulder injury) and Denis Grebeshkov (sidelined indefinitely with an ankle injury).

"The effect of Lubomir Visnovsky and Denis Grebeshkov being out has not helped our offense," coach Craig MacTavish told the Edmonton Sun. "You look for guys, forwards in particular (to step up). We don't really get a consistent level of execution from our forwards."

Heading into Tuesday night's game against Tampa Bay – a 5-3 Oilers victory -- Edmonton had scored two goals or fewer in seven of 11 games in February. And in one of the games in which they "scored" three goals, one of the goals was credited to the team when it defeated the Kings in a shootout.

"We're trying," center Shawn Horcoff told the Sun. "We've had some troubles getting consistent scoring throughout the lineup. We've had stretches where a line here or a line there has scored, but we have to get consistency.

"It's not for lack of effort, the effort is there. Maybe that's the problem. On the power play especially, we're a little tight."

The Oilers won Tuesday despite an 0-for-6 performance with the man advantage.

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