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Lunchtime Links: And Down the Stretch They Come Edition

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It's the most glorious time of the year for league watchers and hotstove junkies -- the games become more meaningful, and vague trade chatter becomes much more tangible.

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Over the next month, Jim Benning must decide if the Canucks have a realistic shot at the playoffs or if they're going to fall short, which pending UFAs he can do without, and whether there are any hockey trades he can make to help the retool. Given their division, I suppose it's possible they are in the running for both a high pick or a playoff spot right through the end of the season. Perhaps #TeamTank and #TeamPlayoffs can yet forge some detente.

Canucks Links

Ben Kuzma of The Province had a pair of pieces celebrating Canucks All-Star (and proper game MVP) Daniel Sedin. One, on Daniel finding his 3rd All-Star Game as much fun as his first, and one on the Sedins as peerless mentors for the young players coming into the system. Jackson, writing on the OneCanuck blog a week ago says Sedin haters deserve mockery.

Jeff Paterson has a look at the Canucks at the 50 game mark (hint: it's pretty grisly). He figures the Canucks need 40 points from their final 32 games to push for third in the Pacific and a playoff spot, and he's not optimistic. David Ebner of the Globe and Mail outlines the Canucks face off struggles.

Brad Zeimer of the Vancouver Sun lists the Canucks' trade chips. The only sure thing is Brandon Prust being either traded or buried, Higgins-style, in Utica. He puts the chance of a Radim Vrbata trade at 75 percent, since Ziemer says Benning has no plans to extend him. Dan Hamhuis is 50-50 to stay.

The Canucks organization's other All-Star, Hunter Shinkaruk, participated in the AHL skills competition in Syracuse, NY last night. He was the fastest skater for the AHL Eastern All-Stars.

Today's Slapshot has an extended appreciation of Pavel Bure, calling him hockey's forgotten hero.

Thatcher Demko tied Corey Schneider's single season shutout record at Boston College in a 4-0 victory over Notre Dame. The 64th annual Beanpot Tournament, involving Boston College, Boston University, Harvard, and Northeastern begins tonight in Boston.

Around the League

Pittsburgh Penguins have signed former Canuck Tom Sestito. He was playing with their farm team in Wilkes-Barre Scranton.

Goalies at the All-Star Game got their first look at the smaller set of equipment, said to be coming in next season. Pierre LeBrun of ESPN.com said the pads are more streamlined and contoured, designed to protect the goalies while giving shooters more net to shoot at.

The AHL's California expansion has been a success so far, says Josh Cooper of Puck Daddy. Shea Theodore of the Anaheim Ducks has become the test case for improvements in player development the western NHL teams hoped to see when they moved their affiliates closer. So far, attendance is better in California, and proximate affiliates save the parent team travel costs. I wonder if this means next year will be the Canucks last with their AHL team in Utica?

Toronto Maple Leafs will unveil a new logo tomorrow to mark their centennial season. Icethetics.co claims to have seen the logo, and offers a mock-up.

Chris Nichols of Today's Slapshot has some short notes from around the league, as teams gear up for the trade deadline. A lot seems to be riding on what the Jets decide to do with Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien.

The Boston Globe's Fluto Shinzawa has some ideas for improving the All-Star Game, and notes on how pending RFAs in Ottawa and Columbus could make those teams active in clearing salary come the deadline. Larry Brooks of the New York Post on Ottawa owner Eugene Melnyk's constant struggle to turn a profit and each franchise's all-time 3 on 3 combination. Steve Simmons says Steven Stamkos controls his own destiny. And Tampa Tribune beat reporter Erik Erlendsson lists teams that might be good trade destinations for Stamkos (including Vancouver, which seems very highly improbable to me).

Commissioner for Life Gary Bettman signed a six-year extension this weekend. Jeff Blair of Sportsnet.ca says it's time to reevaluate Bettman's legacy. And Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune has a Q&A with Donald Fehr.

Arizona Coyotes may be partnering with Arizona State University for a new home arena in Tempe, according to Scott Burnside of ESPN.com. I'll believe it when I see it. Meanwhile, Sands Casino owner Sheldon Adelson is proposing a private-public partnership (two-thirds of the money public, of course) to build a $1 billion domed football stadium for UNLV, and as a potential lure for the currently-homeless Oakland Raiders. Bill Foley, who is bidding for an NHL expansion team in Las Vegas, said he'd love to share Vegas with the NFL.

Gabriel Luis Manga in The Guardian has the story of Germany's ECD Iserlohn and their 1987 bailout by...Muammar Gaddafi?

I leave you today with NewsBeFunny's latest -- the Best Snow News Bloopers Ever, because junior high level humor never stops being funny.