Update on the latest sports — Atlanta police say former four-time Cleveland Browns Pro Bowl linebacker Chip Banks is in serious condition following a shooting. Atlanta police spokeswoman Marla Rooker says officers found three men with apparent gunshot wounds when responding to a shooting in Atlanta on Wednesday afternoon. One of the victims, Charles Pharms Jr., was declared dead at the scene, according to Rooker. The other two victims were alert and transported to a local hospital. Rooker says the 60-year-old Banks was in serious condition. There was no update on the other victim, identified by Rooker as Bennie C. Harris. Rooker says the police investigation is ongoing.VIRUS OUTBREAK-COLLEGE SPORTSParents join players urging Big Ten to play, 9 Sooners positive for virusUNDATED (AP) — A group of Ohio State football players’ parents joined parents of players at Iowa in calling for the Big Ten to overturn its decision not to play this fall. Meanwhile, Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley said nine Sooners tested positive for COVID-19 after he gave his players a week break from team activities. The Football Parents at Ohio State posted a letter to Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren, calling for the reinstatement of the 10-game schedule the conference unveiled six days before it postponed football until spring. Associated Press Share This StoryFacebookTwitteremailPrintLinkedinRedditNHL PLAYOFFS-SCHEDULERask-less Bruins top Hurricanes 3-1, take 2-1 lead in seriesUNDATED (AP) — Jaroslav Halak (YAR’-oh-slav hah-LAHK’) stopped 29 shots as the Boston Bruins beat the Carolina Hurricanes 3-1 to take a 2-1 lead in their first-round series. Charlie Coyle scored once and set up another goal.Halak stepped in after goaltender Tuukka (TOO’-kah) Rask opted out of the NHL playoffs. The absence of the Vezina (VEH’-zih-nuh) Trophy finalist was announced Saturday morning and it didn’t rattle the defending Eastern Conference champions later in the day. Rask helped Boston reach Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final last year. He left the league’s bubble in Toronto to be with his wife and three young children. Game 4 is Monday night.In other ice action:— Darcy Kuemper stopped 49 shots and the Arizona Coyotes held on to beat the Colorado Avalanche 4-2 to close within 2-1 in their Stanley Cup playoff series. Arizona took the early lead on Derek Stepan’s first-period goal, then spent most of the day counterpunching against Colorado’s relentless pressure. Kuemper took made a series of difficult saves in the third period and Taylor Hall scored on an empty net to give Arizona life heading in Game 4 on Monday. Pelicans fire coachUNDATED (AP) — The New Orleans Pelicans have fired coach Alvin Gentry after the club missed the playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons. The Pelicans went 30-42 this season. They finished with just two victories in their final eight games despite the presence of top overall draft choice Zion Williamson and first-time All-Star Brandon Ingram in the lineup until the club was eliminated from playoff contention with two games to play.Gentry was hired by former Pelicans general manager Dell Demps after the club fired Monte Williams following the 2014-15 season. New Orleans’ lone playoff appearance with Gentry at the helm came in the 2017-18 season. New Orleans started this season 6-22 and labored through a franchise record 13-game losing streak. In other NBA news: — Portland’s Damian Lillard has been unanimously selected as the top player of the NBA’s seeding games at Walt Disney World after averaging a league-best 37.6 points in the eight games. Phoenix’s Monty Williams led the Suns to a perfect 8-0 record in the bubble and was chosen as the top coach of the seeding-game schedule. Joining Lillard on the first team for games played at Disney between July 30 and Friday’s end of the seeding-game season was Phoenix’s Devin Booker, Indiana’s T.J. Warren, Dallas’ Luka Doncic and Houston’s James Harden. Booker was second in the MVP vote, followed by Warren.PGA-WYNDHAM CHAMPIONSHIPKim shoots 62 for 2-shot lead after three rounds at WyndhamGREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) — Si Woo Kim had a hole in one on the way to a 62 for a two-shot lead over Doc Redman and Rob Oppenheim through three rounds of the Wyndham Championship on Saturday.Kim, who’s at 18-under after 54 holes, made history three years ago when at 21 he became the youngest winner of The Players Championship. Now, he’s seeking his first victory since — and playing strongly wherever he tees it up. Playing its first game since July 29, St. Louis looked much sharper than Chicago while improving to 3-3 on the season. Every other team in the majors had played at least 13 games coming into the day.Cardinals right-hander Adam Wainwright pitched five innings of one-run ball in his second start of the year. Giovanny Gallegos then struck out the side in the sixth before John Gant finished the seven-inning game, a new rule for doubleheaders in the pandemic-shortened season.The White Sox finished with just three hits — two for Danny Mendick — and never recovered after Lucas Giolito got off to a shaky start.Elsewhere in the majors:— Nelson Cruz hit a two-run homer and the Minnesota Twins held on to beat the Kansas City Royals 4-2 in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader. Tyler Duffey earned the win with a perfect inning in relief of Jake Odorizzi. Taylor Rogers picked up his fifth save in six chances for Minnesota, which was swept in Kansas City last week. Gabe Speier (0-1) surrendered one run while getting two outs for the Royals. Ian Kennedy started and pitched two innings as the opener for his first start since Sept. 28, 2018. INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Marco Andretti led a top speed sweep for Andretti Autosport in qualifying for the Indianapolis 500 as the Honda-powered team claimed the first four spots on the leaderboard and eight of the top nine. Andretti posted a four-lap average of 231.351 mph. The top nine drivers advance to a Sunday shootout that determines the first three starting rows for the Aug. 23 Indianapolis 500. Honda drivers claimed eight of those positions after all 33 cars had made a qualifying attempt. Kim has broken 70 in nine of his last 10 rounds, including all four at TPC Harding Park to finish tied for 13th at the PGA Championship. He has continued that stellar play at Sedgefield Country Club, where he won his first PGA Tour event in 2016. Redman had a 63, while Oppenheim set a career low on tour with a 62 in second at 16-under. Billy Horschel shot a 65 and was three strokes back at 15-under. Mark Hubbard (64) and Jim Herman were another stroke back at 14-under. Herman shot a 61, a career best and tied for lowest round of the tournament. NFL-PACKERS-CLARK EXTENSIONPackers sign DT Kenny Clark to four-year contract extension In other MLB news:— The last two games of a series between Cincinnati and Pittsburgh have been called off because a Reds player tested positive for COVID-19. Major League Baseball is awaiting further testing. The Reds are the third team to have a game postponed because someone on their roster tested positive, joining the Marlins and Cardinals. It’s the second time a Reds player has tested positive during the season. Matt Davidson went in the injured list after a positive test, but subsequent tests were negative and he returned to the team.— – World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg was put on the 10-day injured list by the Nationals. A recurring nerve issue in his throwing hand delayed his start to the season and limited his second appearance to 16 pitches. The 32-year-old Strasburg signed a $245 million, seven-year contract with Washington this offseason. He hadn’t been on the IL since 2018. He is 0-1 with a 10.80 ERA in two starts in 2020. — The Chicago White Sox placed reliever Ian Hamilton on the 10-day injured list Saturday because of a sore right shoulder and transferred utilityman Leury García to the 45-day injured list with a sprained thumb. Manager Rick Renteria said García had an MRI that showed a severed ligament, requiring surgery.NBA-NEWS August 15, 2020 NBA-BLAZERS-GRIZZLIESBlazers make playoffs, oust Grizzlies with 126-122 victoryLAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — It was a fourth consecutive down-to-the-wire finish for a fourth consecutive win for the Portland Trail Blazers. They needed all that just to get into the playoffs. Damian Lillard scored 31 points, CJ McCollum had 14 of his 29 in the fourth quarter — including a pair of big jumpers over Ja Morant late — and the Blazers clinched the NBA’s final playoff spot by beating the Memphis Grizzlies 126-122 on Saturday. Portland’s reward: A matchup with the top-seeded Los Angeles Lakers, starting Tuesday. NEW YORK (AP) — Belinda Bencic (BEN’-chich) is the latest top tennis player to pull out of the U.S. Open. Her withdrawal means three of the four female semifinalists in 2019 will not be at the Grand Slam tournament this year. Play begins in New York at the end of August. Bencic says on social media she will return to the tour next month on clay at the Italian Open. Bencic currently is ranked No. 8. Five of the WTA’s top eight players have announced they won’t play at Flushing Meadows amid the coronavirus pandemic. That includes No. 1 Ash Barty and reigning champion Bianca Andreescu (an-dree-EHS’-koo).NASCAR-DILLONAustin Dillon out after positive COVID-19 test DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — NASCAR driver Austin Dillon has tested positive for COVID-19 and will not compete in Sunday’s Cup Series race at Daytona International Speedway’s road course. Richard Childress Racing says Dillon tested positive Saturday morning and is now self-quarantining away from the team. Kaz Grala will drive the No. 3 Chevrolet at Daytona.Dillon is the third Cup Series drive to test positive for the coronavirus, joining seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson and part-timer Brendan Gaughan. Johnson missed just one race.The 30-year-old Dillon has already qualified for NASCAR’s playoffs by winning at Texas last month.F1-SPANISH GP Jusuf Nurkic had 22 points and 21 rebounds for the winners, who got 21 points from Carmelo Anthony.Morant scored 35 for Memphis, which got a 22-point, 16-rebound day from Jonas Valanciunas and 20 points apiece from Dillon Brooks and Brandon Clarke.MLB-SCHEDULECards beat White Sox 5-1 in return from coronavirus outbreakUNDATED (AP) — Dexter Fowler helped St. Louis get off to a fast start in its return from a coronavirus outbreak, hitting a two-run single in a four-run first inning, and the Cardinals beat the White Sox 5-1 on Saturday in the opener of a doubleheader in Chicago. Hamilton secures 92nd poleMONTMELO, Spain (AP) — Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton has secured a record-extending 92nd pole position at the Spanish Grand Prix. He nudged Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas into second place by just .059 seconds. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen qualified in third. Hamilton is looking to claim an 88th F1 victory that would move him within three of Michael Schumacher’s record. INDYCAR-INDY 500Marco Andretti leads Honda onslaught in Indy 500 qualifying MLB-NEWSReds player tests positive, 2 games with Pirates postponedUNDATED (AP) — Most of the Miami Marlins players sidelined by a coronavirus outbreak have received approval to return to the field. Those cleared will begin rehabilitation workouts and could be activated as early as next week. The Marlins placed 17 players on the injured list following the outbreak, which forced the postponement of seven games. None has played since the season-opening series. The group includes ace Sandy Alcantara, shortstop Miguel Rojas and eight relievers who were on the opening day roster. Despite their absence, the surprising Marlins lead the NL East.Those who have been cleared will rehab at the Marlins’ spring training site in Jupiter, Florida. The letter also asked for the release of all medical data and information the Big Ten used to make its decision and a meeting with Warren for senior players and their parents..In other news related to the pandemic:— The NCAA Division II Conference Carolinas has pushed its fall sports competitions to the spring due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The league’s board of directors announced the decision Saturday. The conference is made up of 11 schools spread throughout Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. The move affects men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s soccer and volleyball. Schedules for those sports will be reduced so those athletes don’t lose a year of eligibility, under NCAA guidelines. TENNIS-US OPEN-WITHDRAWALSBencic out of US Open; 3 of 4 ’19 semifinalists won’t play GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Kenny Clark has signed a four-year contract extension.The Packers announced the signing Saturday without disclosing the length or terms of the deal. Clark’s agent, Doug Hendrickson, confirmed a ESPN report that the 2016 first-round draft pick from UCLA agreed to terms on a deal worth $70 million, with a $25 million signing bonus. Clark has emerged as the Packers’ top defensive lineman. He recorded six sacks for the second straight season last year and was named to the Pro Bowl as an injury replacement. He has 16½ sacks over his four-year career, with all of them coming in the last three seasons.The 24-year-old Clark was eligible to become a free agent next year. Now that the Packers have reached a long-term deal with him, they can start making decisions on all the other notable players with contracts set to expire in 2021. That list includes Pro Bowl defensive tackle David Bakhtiari, running backs Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams, cornerback Kevin King, center Corey Linsley and guard Lane Taylor.In other news:
Authorities in the city of Bayannur, in the Chinese region of Inner Mongolia, issued a warning on Sunday after a hospital patient, reported to be a herdsman, contracted the disease from eating marmot meat last week.There were four reported cases of plague in people in the same region last November, including two cases of the deadlier pneumonic plague.The case triggered a level-three alert Sunday in the Bayannur district. Health officials released a statement ordering residents not to hunt wild animals, such as rodents like marmots, and to report anyone with fever or showing other possible signs of infection.The infected herdsman is being treated at a hospital and is in stable condition, according to state reports. While occasional cases are still reported among hunters encountering fleas carrying the bacterium, it is unknown how the man became infected.
Favorite summer flowering plant hit by disease Lush, beautiful impatiens in pinks, purples, brilliant white and deep oranges are a favorite annual of almost any gardener with a shady growing area. But this year, nurserymen, garden centers and growers are advising against planting them.Impatiens walleriana has been hit with an emerging disease called downy mildew that infects the plants and results in leafless stems that then collapse. The disease was first seen in Florida a number of years ago and has been on the move ever since and is now in more than 30 states, including the Garden State.The good news is that there are lots of other showy plants that do well in the shade that garden centers and landscapers in the area are stocking this growing season.Paul Molzon of Molzon Garden Center in Lincroft, called impatiens downy mildew “a terrible thing.“There’s no actual cure for it,” he said. “Most of the growers just aren’t growing it because people aren’t going to buy it. Most of the landscapers are just going to switch to using other plants.”Impatiens downy mildew only infects the Impatiens walleriana, not New Guinea impatiens or sunpatiens, which look remarkably like the impacted variety of impatiens, or other plants.Plants that are infected will get a fuzzy, white growth on the underside of the leaf.“That’s the first sign,” Molzon said. “The next step is a lot of the foliage will fall off. There might be just a few small leaves left with a few flowers on the top. The next step is … the stems will just fall down as if they had melted,” he said.“The big problem is (growers and experts) don’t know how long this will last in the soil. It’s out there. It handles the cold; it overwinters in the soil. So, if you had a problem, you don’t want to plant impatiens there again because you’ll definitely have the problem again.”The Master Gardeners at Sickles Market in Little Silver have assembled a collection of hearty, colorful alternatives to impatiens, making selections that are particularly suited to conditions at the Shore. The easy-to-grow, shade tolerant and fungus-resistant plants include New Guinea impatiens, sunpatiens, angel wing begonias, torenia, angelonia, ivy geraniums, caladium and coleus, and they will prove a worthy replacement to the fungus-prone impatiens.“These substitute plants are so easy to care for and give a wider range of colors and textures that were lacking with impatiens,” said Natale Siclare, garden center manager.Molzon also is recommending substituting impatiens with such plants as begonias.“There are tons of great begonias that will handle the shade … They come in all different colors” and varieties, including common garden begonia that come in flats, the dragon wing begonias and a variety called “Big” that grow to about 24-inches tall, he said.Coleus, which come in a variety of vivid colors, lobelia and New Guinea impatiens and sunpatiens are also recommended to take the place of the annual favorite.Molzon has been proactive about letting his clients know about the problem by sending information weeks ago in his newsletter and putting it on his Facebook page. “I’m going to have a few impatiens in but have a big sign on them to educate people,” Molzon said.“All the large seed companies are working on this like crazy because it will be a big hit,” he said.
Colorado has a number of good young forwards. Rookie Gabriel Landeskog was noticeable today.Broadcast Observation of the Day: I think I have finally found a rink that apparently plays worse music than Rogers Arena. I heard that horribly annoying LMFAO song, as well as Maroon 5’s equally brutal “Moves Like Jagger”. Wow. This coming from a rink that, along with Dallas, used to play some of the best music in the league (admittedly based on limited sample size).I thought Garrett offered some great insight when he was talking about how some of the league’s best face-off men will intentionally lose a meaningless neutral-zone faceoff early in a game in order to learn what the other guy does, as well as to give him a false sense of security. While this tactic makes a lot of sense, I would never have thought about that. It’s these kinds of tidbits that can really add quality to a broadcast.Looking ahead: The Canucks continue their road trip on Tuesday in Music City, as they visit the Nashville Predators. I touched on this above, but the power play has been very poor for over 20 games now. Going back to the game in Columbus on December 13, the power play is only 11 for 70 (15.7%). If you take out the Boston game in which they went 4 for 11, they have only scored on 7 of their last 59 opportunities (11.9%). That is positively brutal. Unbelievably, they still lead the league, however their percentage has come off at least 4 points and is now only 22.3% (Nashville is second at 22.2% – so the gap has narrowed significantly). Byron Bitz made his Canucks debut tonight and was pretty good overall. Skating on a line with Cody Hodgson and Jannik Hansen, he was able to use his size effectively in the offensive zone, and got into an entertaining bout with Avalanche tough guy Cody McLeod. Vigneault should be pleased with what he saw. Bieksa’s final shift where he prevented a goal at one end and scored at the other, tying the game, was unbelievable. The goal bore an uncanny resemblance to his series-winning goal against San Jose in last season’s playoffs. He was able to atone for his mistake that led to Colorado’s second goal, which occurred on a shift where prior to the puck drop, he was preoccupied by attempting to get Galiardi to fight him (Galiardi has elbowed him in the first period). Leigh Ramsden lives in Vancouver and is an avid Canucks fan, having been a partial season ticket holder for over 10 years. He’s old enough to have witnessed all three Stanley Cup losses, as such, his prime goal is to remove those scars by seeing a Cup brought to Vancouver. Leigh is Fighting For Stanley’s (www.fightingforstanley.ca/vancouver) west coast correspondent, and will also blog after all Canuck games for The Nelson Daily.The Vancouver Canucks visited the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday afternoon in the Mile High City, exiting with a 3-2 shootout victory.Coming off two substandard performances against Chicago and Detroit, the Canucks came out of the gate strong, taking the game to Colorado for most of the first eight minutes of the game. Ryan Kesler opened the scoring at 3:31 of the first, wiring a slap shot past Avalanche netminder Jean-Sebastian Giguere. The first took a turn for the worse for the visitors after David Booth took a dubious goaltender interference penalty at 8:46 of the first, as David Jones converted a great pass from Paul Stastny on the ensuing power play to even the score.Shortly after that goal, Colorado went back on the power play, which shifted the momentum solidly in their favour. While they didn’t score, the Avalanche rode that momentum for the rest of the period, eventually outshooting the Canucks 18-7.The second period was much better for Vancouver. They were unfortunate to go down 2-1, after a Kevin Bieksa back pass came out awkwardly from the boards behind the net, and Daniel Winnik fed Jay McClement who fired the puck past Canuck goaltender Roberto Luongo. The Canucks played decently through the rest of the middle frame, however, were unlucky to not have any of their chances go in the net. Meanwhile, the Avalanche were able to generate a number of chances, there were very few Grade A chances.Consistent with recent history, the Canucks were able to mount more of an attack in the third period, drawing a couple of penalties along the way. However, Giguere was up to the task, and turned the puck back on a number of occasions. The Canucks finally tied the game after a phenomenal shift for Bieksa. With Luongo on the bench for the extra attacker, Avalanche forward T.J. Galiardi flipped a puck from centre that was heading into the net – until Bieksa skated hard from the opposite side of the ice, dove, and kept the puck out. He then cleared the zone and the puck went in deep. The Avalanche got to it first, and rung the puck around the boards, where it took a strange bounce off the stanchion, into the slot, onto Bieksa’s stick, from where he got a wrist shot past Giguere with only 35 seconds left.The overtime was relatively uneventful, although, Colorado outshot Vancouver 5-1 in the extra frame. The game went to the dreaded shootout, but Luongo was up to the task, saving all three Avalanche attempts. Mason Raymond was the Canucks’ second shooter, and his goal through Giguere’s legs was enough to get the Canucks two points.Statistically, Colorado was the much better team today, in the end outshooting the Canucks 46-29 and outchancing the Canucks 27-18 (as detailed over at Canucks Army). I wasn’t able to watch the game live today, but I was able to listen to portions of it on the radio live – and based on what I heard, I was expected to be horrified when I watched the game tonight. Shockingly, I wasn’t. In my mind, today was merely “one of those days”, which I’ll expand on below.Also, again, it must be said that Luongo was extremely good today as he kept Vancouver in the game throughout regulation, and was able to stop all three Avalanche shooters in the shootout. Without Luongo at the top of his game, the Canucks don’t likely end up leaving Denver with two points. DID THE CANUCKS “DESERVE” THIS WIN?While it’s the only statistic that decides winners and losers, generally I advocate for looking past only goals for and against in order to assess a team’s performance. Shots on goal can often be a reasonable indicator of the general effectiveness of a team and run of the play, and it’s a relatively well-defined, objective measure. While more subjective, some statisticians (and many NHL teams) are using “scoring chances” as a more meaningful metric (typically the scoring chances must come from certain areas on the ice in order to be counted).As noted above, both measures were slanted heavily in favour of Colorado today. That said, in watching the game, I really feel like most of their advantage was gained in one 12 minute stretch of the game – basically, the second half of the first period. During this stretch, the Avalanche were playing well, getting power play opportunities, and giving the Canucks fits in their own end. However, the Canucks had a very good first eight minutes (two early odd-man rushes against notwithstanding), during which they were able to jump out to a lead on Kesler’s goal. Overall, I felt it was a reasonably even period, even though Colorado significantly outshot the Canucks. Henrik and Daniel continue to struggle immensely. Like the rest of the team, their stat line was worse than they played, but their lack of production recently is astounding, considering the rate at which they have scored over the past few years. Hopefully they get their game figured out soon. They weren’t even afforded first-unit power play time on the team’s final man advantage. Ryan Kesler’s second line continues to be the most dangerous. Mason Raymond, given a shot on that line in Chris Higgins’ absence, isn’t making much of his opportunity, but his shootout goal was very good. Aaron Rome isn’t doing a lot for me right now. I’d welcome giving Alberts another turn on the third pairing. The other stretch in the game where they took it to the Canucks statistically was the overtime period, when they outshot Vancouver 5-1. However, again, this doesn’t tell the entire story. The Canucks controlled the play in the extra period for most of the first three minutes, while Colorado had better run of the play in the final couple of minutes. That said, it was Vancouver who tallied the only two credited scoring chances in the overtime – so again, I feel it was a pretty even overtime session.The second and third periods were statistically even between the two teams. However, again, I feel that the stats here are a bit misleading. Vancouver had some very good stretches in those periods, and were unlucky not to score on a couple (or more) occasions.So what really happened today? Were the Canucks deserving victors?My take is that while the Canucks were (again) far off their best game, they did enough to legitimately get the win. For one, the ice was terrible (day game which was preceded by an NBA game the prior night) and this caused a number of strange bounces – Colorado’s second goal and Bieksa’s tying goal being prime examples. Vancouver is a high-skill team, and today there were a number of instances where pucks just plain bounced over their sticks, or passes weren’t flat on the ice, shots were fanned on, etc.Secondly, while this really sounds like a cop-out, the Canucks were just plain unlucky. They had a number of shots which were “almost” deflected in front of the net; or where the deflections put the puck straight into Giguere or inches past the post. They were just a fraction off on a number of other shots or passes – it seemed like they missed the net, albeit only marginally, quite often. Hodgson wired a slap shot off the post early in the third.Thirdly, the Canucks power play continues to struggle, going 0 for 5 on the day. One goal would have changed the outcome of this game. Typically the Canucks are good for one power play goal on approximately every four opportunities, if that had held true today, Bieksa’s heroics wouldn’t have been necessary.Lastly, and most importantly, the goaltending was stellar. While I question the overall quality of many of Colorado’s shots and scoring chances, Luongo did make a number of very tough saves over course of the contest. As much as it displeases many in Canucks Nation, Luongo is a part of the team, and therefore, his contributions can’t be ignored in assessing the quality of the win. He also made three very good saves in the shootout, enabling the Canucks to seize the extra point.The bottom line is that good teams will find ways to get points and wins. Vancouver is playing some of its worst hockey of the season, however, they are finding ways to get things done. There are worries and warning signs, and by no means should their recent play not be cause for concern. That said – today, at least – they were deserving of the points they got. They just were not as bad as the stats would have you believe. OTHER TOP NHL TEAMS STRUGGLING AS WELLIt’s funny, the Canucks are playing poorly at the moment, and yet they are climbing up the standings. Detroit, Nashville, and Pittsburgh are all playing well and are rolling along. On the flip side, in their last 10 games, Boston is 4-5-1, Philadelphia is 5-3-2, San Jose is 5-4-1, and Chicago is 4-4-2.What this all means is that after the close of play tonight, Vancouver is tied for second in the NHL in points, at 69 (although the team they are tied with, New York, has three games in hand). More importantly, in looking at the most telling number, Vancouver is now in a three-way tie for third in regulation losses with Philadelphia and San Jose (only New York and St. Louis having fewer). This is an area where the Canucks have been chasing the top teams all season long, and only recently have they caught the top level teams here.This is exactly why these most recent games are very important for the Canucks. They have found ways to avoid regulation losses this week, even though they definitely deserved them in the Chicago and Detroit games. As a result, they are increasing their position in the standings even while not playing their best. That, if nothing else, is an impressive feat, and makes me look forward to when the team starts firing on all cylinders again. Perhaps more importantly, it also keeps the team’s recent woes in perspective. PARTING SHOTSQuick comments: Vancouver is now 13-0-2 against the Avalanche in their last 15 games against this former arch-nemesis.